Officials in the Endowment Office invited members of the community from ACU, HSU, Hendrick Health Center, law firms, accounting firms and banks to talk about a community initiative on the northeast side of Abilene.
The proposed residential area would replace the Zoe Center off East N. 10th Street. The Zoe Center is a 100-acre plot with a 22,000-square-foot house on it, donated to ACU about 15 years ago. Since then, the university has purchased land surrounding the house and accumulated 425 acres on that side of town. The university hired contractors and architects to investigate the viability of transforming the land into an upscale, sophisticated residential area.
Kelly Young, chief financial officer, said he, President Schubert and Jack Rich have been looking at developing the land for the past three years.
“We spent about a year researching the feasibility and options for potential development,” he said. “We decided there was enough potential to develop that we have now hired engineers and architects to do the first step of land planning on this residential development.”
These architects were involved in the meeting with Abilene community members and received helpful input on their conceptual plans for the area.
Young said the planned community would involve shared, open space with walking trails, pavilions and possibly even space that would have dining options nearby. He said walking is becoming more popular, and this is an attempt to make that culture accessible in Abilene.
“This is the fun stage, there is a lot of excitement about it, and it’s very positive,” he said.
The community initiative is not the first proposed idea for transforming the Zoe Center and surrounding land.
Dr. Royce Money, chancellor and president emeritus, said he took interest in using the land in the early 2000s. He and Jack Rich planned to create a conference or retreat center for the university.
“We were able to raise some money, but nowhere near enough,” he said.
The dream to transform the vacant land resurfaced several years ago, strengthened by the Vision In Action initiative, Young said.
Plans are being drawn up and costs evaluated, but Young said final feasibility could be announced by this summer.
“If we do this, it is number one to enhance the university experience, number two to try to create revenue in the endowment from vacant land “” we’re not earning anything on it right now,” he said. “So it creates new sources of revenue for the endowment that then will ultimately help the university. It’s very university-centric.”