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Hobby Lobby back in Northfield

Recorder file/Paul Franz
Hobby Lobby Stores has exercised its option to buy the 12-bedroom “Moody Homestead” at 225 Main St., by the entrance to the former Northfield Mount Hermon School campus in Northfield.

Recorder file/Paul Franz Hobby Lobby Stores has exercised its option to buy the 12-bedroom “Moody Homestead” at 225 Main St., by the entrance to the former Northfield Mount Hermon School campus in Northfield.

NORTHFIELD — The Oklahoma billionaires who gave away the former Northfield Mount Hermon School in January are once again involved in a Northfield property.

The Green family’s Hobby Lobby Stores has exercised its option to buy the 12-bedroom “Moody Homestead” at 225 Main St., by the entrance to the campus.

What’s to become of the former home of NMH founder Dwight L. Moody, built in 1869, is yet unclear.

“We don’t have any immediate plans for the Homestead at the moment,” said Les Miller, real estate analyst for Hobby Lobby.

The fate of the campus, now in the hands of the National Christian Foundation, also remains uncertain. NCF officials have said that the foundation continues to seek a financially qualified recipient for the school.

That recipient could ultimately end up with the Homestead, too.

“Our view has always been that (the Homestead) would be best suited to stay with the campus,” said Miller. “There still has to be some discussion about what we will do with the property.”

At the moment, he said, Hobby Lobby and NMH have entered a purchase agreement for the property.

It had been listed on the open market for an asking price of $350,000. That’s more than triple what Hobby Lobby paid for the entire campus.

Hobby Lobby purchased the 217-acre former NMH campus in 2009 for $100,000 and spent more than $6 million fixing it up through the next three years.

When NMH made the sale, it also gave Hobby Lobby the option to buy the Homestead, as well as Green Pastures, a house at the corner of Main and Moody streets, the nine-hole Northfield Golf Club, and 17 NMH faculty homes. Equivalent to a right of first refusal, Hobby Lobby’s purchase options will expire in December 2014.

D. William Pratt, real estate agent handling several NMH properties, said there has been an offer on Green Pastures, and Hobby Lobby chose not to exercise its option on that house.

The company originally bought the campus with the intent to donate it to the startup C.S. Lewis College; however, the college missed fundraising goals set by Hobby Lobby, and the company sought another recipient.

In September 2012, Hobby Lobby offered the campus, free of charge, to for-profit Christian college Grand Canyon University.

A month later, GCU refused the offer, amid state accreditation problems and infrastructure improvement costs upwards of $30 million needed to equip the campus and town to handle 5,000 students on a campus built for 500.

In January, Hobby Lobby announced that it had given the campus to the National Christian Foundation, a nonprofit that helps philanthropists with cash and property make donations to other nonprofits.

The NCF may give the campus away to another nonprofit, or sell it to the highest bidder and give away the proceeds, though officials have said they will try to honor the Greens’ vision of giving the property to a Christian organization.

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