Investors buy Morris Brown building for $900,000

Editor's Note: The following story was published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on March 4, 2009

Financially embattled Morris Brown College lost a classroom building, Frederick D. Jordan Hall, to foreclosure on Tuesday.

Investors, who financed a $13.1 million construction loan for the building in 1996, bought Jordan Hall for a fraction of that sum Tuesday at a foreclosure sale on the steps of the Fulton County Courthouse. The building sold for $900,000.

What will happen to the property is unclear. Lawyers present at the foreclosure sale refused to comment. Repeated telephone calls to attorneys for the U.S. Bank Association, which represents the investors, were not returned.

"This is certainly not a great day for the Morris Brown family and the Atlanta community, " college board of trustees vice chairman Sonny Walker said Tuesday in a prepared statement. "However, the glass is not empty."

Walker and other Morris Brown boosters spent Monday scrambling to delay the forced sale of the building one more time. Jordan Hall originally was scheduled to be auctioned on Jan. 6, but administration officials and Morris Brown boosters persuaded investors to delay that sale. They won a second reprieve in February.

The loss of Jordan Hall is likely to have little, if any, impact on day-to-day campus life, administration officials said. The college now has about 200 students enrolled, college officials said Tuesday.

"The students are in class and Morris Brown College is open for business, " Stanley Pritchett, acting president of the college, said in a prepared statement. "We are making strides toward securing interim funding which will enable us to relieve the strain of weekly financial crises ... but the need for large donations is critical --- especially from the Atlanta community."

Jordan Hall, once home to the school's Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Administration program, is locked. Furniture and equipment is stacked inside several entrances to the building. The Ruth Hall Hodges Art Gallery, which had space in Jordan Hall, is padlocked.

Despite the sale, Morris Brown continues to owe $12.2 million for the defaulted construction loan.

Morris Brown's financial problems go beyond that debt. The college recently averted closing its doors when Atlanta extended a Feb. 17 deadline for Morris Brown to pay $214,000 in overdue water bills.

As of last week, according to a news release, supporters of Morris Brown had raised $150,000 to pay the water bills, now due March 19.