Not for sale: Renovations begin at Union Bible College and Academy

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Union Bible College and Academy President Adam Buckler has a vision for the school – one that he just can’t put a price on.

According to Buckler, UBCA’s property has been of interest to several local developers because it is at 434 S. Union St. near downtown Westfield and the recently completed Grand Junction Plaza. Instead of selling the land for a heft profit and moving the school, Buckler plans to invest in the campus and offer more services to students.

UBCA is a nonprofit institution of Higher Christian Education. It offers K-12 education as well as college courses and degrees. The school encompasses 12 acres and owns land between Roosevelt Street, 171st Street (also known as South Street), and between Cherry Street and Union Street. Buckler calls the area the “red zone.”

“That’s where we believe (will) be the future of our campus as we continue to grow,” Buckler said. “We own a vast majority of it.”

Buckler has been president at UBCA since 2013. He is the school’s 10th president, and said since he started in the role, the campus has had financial and organizational growth. A total of 191 students are enrolled, 76 of whom attend the K-12 academy. Buckler said the school is in a “buying mode” and not a “selling mode.”

Local developers approached UBCA three years ago about selling.

“They mentioned to us an interest in portions of our property,” Buckler said. “In my 8 1/2  years of being here, I have heard multiple times that this property is in the sights of city developers. I encouraged them to put an offer together and present it to me to carry to the board of directors.”

Buckler said the verbal offer he received for the property, which was 13.9 acres at the time, was “insulting.” Now, the property is roughly 12 acres because 1.9 acres were sold to Old Town Companies for development.

“We are not planning to sell any more land,” Buckler said. “Our purpose at this point is to gain and retain as much property as possible within the red zone.”

In 2016, the campus published its first strategic plan, which included a 25-year facility master plan.

“Our plans are to totally renovate the red zone,” Buckler said.

Buckler said the renovations are designed to bring a more campus-like feel to the college and academy. Future plans include a collegiate-like entrance on Union Street as well as secondary entrances to the campus on Cherry and Walnut streets.

Buckler said UBCA did explore moving, but a survey of the administration, staff and students showed an overwhelming interest in remaining in downtown Westfield.

UBCA’s building, which was originally red brick, is now painted white. The downstairs area of the academy, which was originally built in 1861, has been renovated, and a playground and a new dining center are under construction.

Moreover, nearly $1.5 million will be spent on the proposed renovations and additions. Future renovations include a larger library, a maintenance garage, a welcome center, a coffee shop, conference rooms and a miniature museum.

Westfield Mayor Andy Cook said since Buckler joined the school, he has positively impacted the organization.

“He has financially turned that place around,” Cook said. They received several offers a year or two ago to buy the entire property, but they made the decision to stay there and started to make some investments. They’re trying to be more aesthetic. (Buckler) has some real aggressive master plans for that entire campus.”

UBCA is the oldest, continually operating high school in the state.

“They are a huge-kept secret,” Cook said.

For more, visit ubca.org.

Renovation timeline

  • Common area renovation in all dormitories: Completed 2020
  • Academy office suite renovations: Completed 2020
  • Total IT reconstruction: Completed Completed 2021
  • Campus-wide security expansion: Completed 2021
  • Office renovations and additions: Completed 2021
  • Internal painting and new furniture for college classrooms: Completed 2021
  • Dr. James Fulton Chapel renovation: Completed 2021
  • External painting of all buildings: Completed 2021
  • Men’s dormitory parking and patio area: Completed 2021
  • Playground/external student area renovation and expansion: Projected completion for spring 2022
  • New dining center: Projected completion for spring 2023


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