The university recently finalized the purchase of its first international property – a 15,000-square-foot villa in the heart of Leipzig, Germany. The 144-year-old villa, built in 1872, is located in Leipzig’s Music District. The villa will accommodate around 35 people.
Stephen Shewmaker, executive director of the Center for International Education, said the process of acquiring the property has taken nearly a year.
In January, Shewmaker traveled to Leipzig in January with Dr. Robert Rhodes, provost, Dr. Phil Schubert, president of the university, along with a few other senior leaders on campus to look at a property. The group initially looked at a different home on the same street, but after meeting Oriol Plans-Casal, owner of the villa, conversations began about a possible transaction.
“After having quite a few conversations with Oriol and a few extra trips to Leipzig, we hired an engineer to go through the property and assess its soundness,” Shewmaker said.
As things moved forward, Shewmaker worked with a Leipzig-based attorney to complete the acquisition.
“We don’t have to do much to it, but we’ll have to do some furnishing,” Shewmaker said. “It’s in really good shape, and it’s really nice on the inside – perfect for what we need it to be.”
Shewmaker said he hopes the property will be ready for students to use by Summer 2017, but is still unsure which of the summer groups will get to stay at the villa.
“Where the building is located is fantastic and we’ll have students right on the edge of the center of the city,” Shewmaker said.
As Study Abroad programs have grown over the years, the university has looked at buying properties before, but until now, properties in Leipzig, Oxford and Montevideo have been rented.
The university had an opportunity to purchase the Oxford houses on Canterbury Road about 10 years ago, but still remains tenants in the homes. With a slight case of renter’s remorse, Shewmaker didn’t want to let a property like the Leipzig villa get away.
“Because we did not purchase at Oxford and now we wish 10 years ago we would have, that helped inform this decision,” Shewmaker said. “We thought, ‘Let’s not be twenty years into Leipzig, wishing we had learned the lessons of Oxford.’”
The villa currently houses Lyzeum Music School and sits in a historic part of town, right next to where the iconic Bluthner piano factory once stood. The factory was once the largest employer in Leipzig at the turn of the twentieth century, but was lost in World War II bombings. Shewmaker said he looks forward to uncovering more of the villa’s history.
“I don’t know all the stories yet, but I’m interested to really dig into it,” Shewmaker said.