Miller land leased for parking

Joe Lord

There was a vision.

More than 700 new parking spots. A walkway across University Boulevard. Space for new buildings, someday.

That vision died a year ago when talks between Western and the family of Preston S. Miller, owners of 6.79 acres of land across the railroad tracks near Diddle Arena, ended without a deal.

Now Western is left with just a glimpse.

But the family will allow the university to use the land — temporarily.

Commuter students will be able to park on the land during the Sun Belt Conference Tournament and possibly until the end of the semester, said Bob Edwards, vice president for University Relations. Gravel and other materials, costing $20,000, are now being laid on the land to make about 300 parking spaces.

The lot will be reserved for commuter students with “C” parking permits, Edwards said. The lot is expected to open Monday.

“It could be earlier than that,” Edwards said.

Western and the family only have an agreement on insurance liability on the land, President Gary Ransdell said. The cost to Western has not yet been determined.

Edwards said the price tag on the lease will likely be just a nominal fee.

“Probably like $1,” he said.

Western is not seeking to buy the land, Ransdell said. Money set aside last year for the purchase has since been budgeted for the Creason lot expansion.

The Miller family may be within a month of striking a deal with another prospective buyer, family spokesman Glenn Miller said. Also, yet another interested party could be within three months of complete closure.

“Nothing has been finalized,” Miller said.

He would not name either of the two groups or the nature of their business.

“Both of them (would) benefit with the university being next door to them,” he said.

Miller said the family has not been contacted by Western about reopening negotiations since the first try ended in failure.

Miller said he thinks the majority of the family would like Western to get the land.

“They’re the people who really need it worst,” Miller said. “They’re running out of land adjacent to them. It’s the cheapest land they can buy.”

Last year, Western’s offer and the family’s asking price were never more than $1 million apart, the Herald reported. The family asked for $2.2 million, an average of two appraisals done on the property for them.

Western had one appraisal done. It determined a value of $910,000.

The university contacted the family Sunday to ask if it could use the land for the tournament, Ransdell said. His only concern is safety.

He encouraged students to use the crosswalks near the lot when making the trek to campus.

Reach Joseph Lord at [email protected]