UPDATE as of January 27, 2020
For the next phase of the Lower School building project, we have selected WRT––architects, campus planners, and landscape architects based in Philadelphia––to further develop design options for the lower school building and to help with implementation. We are currently holding focus group discussions to provide our constituents an opportunity to give input as we begin design of the new building. Meetings are being held with parents, faculty, staff, students, the Board of Trustees, and the neighborhood.
What are we doing?
WFS is exploring the construction of a state-of-the-art lower school building on our main campus. To facilitate our vision for our next 275 years—and our commitment to long-term growth and excellence—we have been rigorously and thoughtfully exploring the opportunity to sell the property where the lower school current stands. To that end, we have entered into an agreement of sale with Incyte for the lower school property.
Why are we considering this?
During the last few years, as part of our ongoing strategic and facility planning, we created a Campus Master Plan for our campuses. This work identified and prioritized capital and renovation needs in the current lower school building. As we prepared to raise funds to support the lower school campus work, the idea of this opportunity with Incyte began with informal conversations, which led both parties to seeing benefits of the transaction and agreeing to sit down and talk.
What is the sale price for the property and how will proceeds be used?
In October 2019, Wilmington Friends School entered into an agreement of sale with Incyte Corporation for Incyte to purchase about 20 acres of our lower school property for $50 million. Contingent on the close of the sale, this would allow us to build a state-of-the-art lower school on our middle/upper school campus. This might also make it possible for us to implement improvements to our middle/upper school building, and, in concert with current fundraising initiatives, grow our endowment to support students, faculty/staff, and families.
Is WFS selling the lower school property because of a financial situation?
No. Wilmington Friends School is financially solid. The Board and School have a responsibility to explore opportunities that could advance the mission and long-term vision and future of the School. This agreement aligns with our mission and long-term vision for the School and we are excited to be moving forward.
What might WFS gain?
A transaction of this nature would benefit students in all divisions—now and in the future— and helps us more quickly realize many elements of our future vision and mission by:
- Allowing us to reimagine our lower school facility and programs with a new building
- Unifying our campuses for increased efficiency, flexibility and community
- Making a significant investment in our endowment
- Allowing us to more quickly address needs identified in the Campus Master Plan, including renovations to the middle/upper school campus
Growing our endowment in a significant and immediate way could be transformative, advancing and aligning with many of our core Quaker values, providing:
- Financial aid to support WFS’s ability to serve students at all socio-economic levels
- Investment that enables attraction, support and retention of the best faculty and staff
- Funds and facilities to support expanded program options, opportunities for innovation and more interdivisional collaboration
What happens next? What can we expect?
In reviewing and reflecting on this opportunity, the Board has held extended discussion and is studying two options as potential sites for a new lower school building. In the interim:
- During 2019-2021, WFS would be involved in a period of due diligence and approvals—while fully maintaining the current, thriving lower school building and programs.
- Our track/turf and Bermuda grass fields are not included in the sale and will continue to be a buffer between the neighborhood and the existing Incyte building. There will be no loss in our current athletic field options on the middle/upper school campus.
- If the project moves forward, the earliest impact would happen in 2021/22 with a temporary relocation of the ASP program.
- The grand opening of a new lower school would be in Fall 2023, when this year’s 1st graders would be 5th graders in the new building
What are the buyer’s/Incyte’s plans for the current lower school campus?
Any potential development plans for the WFS lower school property are at an exploratory stage. Any proposed development on the property would occur following the completion of the new Wilmington Friends lower school, which is estimated to be in the Fall of 2023.
Are there contingencies with the sale of the lower school property?
Yes. The sale of the lower school property is not final. There are a number of contingencies that must be cleared by our school--and by Incyte--before we can proceed, including zoning requirements, feasibility and traffic studies, and community review and approval. While we are optimistic that we can meet these contingencies, there is always a chance that these contingencies will not be met. According to our timetable, the sale will close as early as 2021.
What happens if the sale does not move forward?
If the project does not move forward, we will continue to define and pursue our vision for the next 275 years, with the continuing support and financial generosity of our community. Prior to our discussions with Incyte, we had developed master plans for both campuses. Therefore, if this sale does not move forward, we are not starting over in our strategic visioning of the lower school campus. We will continue with the work we have been doing and we will review our options to reimagine our lower school facilities.
What is the estimated timeline for the new lower school building?
October 2019 to August 2023
Lower School Remains at Current Location
October 2019 to June 2021
Approval Process and Building Design
As early as 2021
Sale Closing on Lower School Property
2021 to 2023
New Building Opening
What will the new lower school building on the main campus look like?
After doing an initial study, we have draft renderings for two potential locations for the new lower school building (renderings below). The Board will seek everyone’s input before making their final decision on location.