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Hobby Lobby purchases St. Gregory’s, leases to OBU

Hobby Lobby recently purchased the property formerly occupied by St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee. The purchase became official Dec. 4, following bankruptcy proceedings for St. Gregory’s after the Catholic university ceased operations due to financial insolvency during December 2017. As part of Hobby Lobby’s announcement of the purchase, they likewise announced they had entered into a lease agreement for use of the property with OBU. Photo by: Heather Horner

SHAWNEE—Hobby Lobby, the arts and crafts retail giant based in Oklahoma City, recently purchased the property formerly occupied by St. Gregory’s University (SGU) in Shawnee. The purchase became official Dec. 4, following bankruptcy proceedings for St. Gregory’s after the Catholic university ceased operations due to financial insolvency during December 2017.
As part of Hobby Lobby’s announcement of the purchase, they likewise announced they had entered into a lease agreement for use of the property with Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU). Hobby Lobby’s statement read as follows:
“Hobby Lobby’s interest in the former St. Gregory’s University property is to assure a meaningful, long-term future use for the property. We understand the importance of the property to the community of Shawnee, the state of Oklahoma and the vast St. Gregory’s community of alumni and former faculty.
“We also recognize the significance of the St. Gregory’s Abbey community, and we’re committed to working with the Benedictine monks as they continue their important work. In the near term, Hobby Lobby’s plan is to further evaluate the condition and potential future use of each of the buildings. Several minor construction projects will be initiated in caring for the property.
“During this time, the property will be leased to Oklahoma Baptist University, allowing them to use the property as it best meets their needs. We anticipate that during this time a long-term plan will come together, assuring a bright and exciting future for the property.”
Hobby Lobby paid $8 million for the 73-acre property and is leasing it to OBU for a nominal amount. With more than 800 stores nationwide, the retail chain agreed in September to buy the property.
A federal bankruptcy judge in Oklahoma City approved the sale in November, and the sale closed Tues., Dec. 4, when no better offers came in. Proceeds from the sale will be used to pay off claims and mortgages against the campus, a bankruptcy trustee previously told the judge.
St. Gregory’s University was a private Catholic university and shared the Shawnee skyline with OBU for more than 100 years. It closed a year ago after being denied a $12.5 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
OBU has made plans to potentially utilize the classrooms and labs in Benedictine Hall for science courses. The University is also formulating plans to use the Sarkeys Performing Arts Center as another venue for presentations by its theater, choral and instrumental programs.
OBU issued the following statement in response to Hobby Lobby’s announcement:
“Oklahoma Baptist University will enter into a lease with Hobby Lobby to use the former St. Gregory’s University property as an extension of the OBU campus. This lease agreement provides the opportunity to use spaces available on the former SGU campus while Hobby Lobby determines their long-term plans for the property.
“In anticipation of a possible lease, OBU administration and faculty have discussed best use for the academic space and have several plans in process, including use of the classrooms and labs in Benedictine Hall for science courses. Additional plans are being formulated including use of Sarkeys Performing Arts Center which will provide an additional venue for presentations by our theatre, choral and instrumental programs.
“As Hobby Lobby further evaluates the condition and future use of the property, OBU will have the opportunity to continue to provide the rich tradition of Christian higher education begun on the campus of St. Gregory’s University more than 100 years ago. We are grateful to Hobby Lobby for the opportunity to lease this space to carry forward the historic missions that both St. Gregory’s and OBU have practiced over the last century.”

Author: Kenny Day

OBU Marketing Communications Coordinator

View more articles by Kenny Day.

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