Patrick Redmond and Lisa Esquivel Long, Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly

HOWE — The Howe Military Academy property is now for sale.

Notice of the sale has brought criticism to the school’s trustees, with the president saying the listing wasn’t supposed to happen before graduation. However, the Zacher Company, the Fort Wayne real estate firm in charge of placing a description of the 63-acre property on its website, says it has the full go-ahead.

“It’s a very emotional time,” Zacher broker Evan Rubin said. “...(However,) we have the full marketing go-ahead other than putting the (for sale) signs up” before June 3.

Zacher’s website lists the campus for sale with a price tag of $4 million. The listing includes photos of most of Howe’s 26 buildings, including the Howe’s historic St. James Chapel and its 140-plus-year-old Howe Mansion.

Although the school is closing at the end of this school year after years of double-digit enrollment, the listing prompted a wave of angry emails directed at members of the school’s board of trustees from people who are upset the listing came out before the school’s final graduation ceremony, scheduled for June 1, Phil Malone, president of the Howe school’s board of trustees said.

According to Malone, the real estate company “sort of jumped the gun” by posting the listing before the completion of this year’s school year.

“I can’t control everything,” he explained. “We’re taking a lot of heat.”

Malone said while “For Sale” signs will be appearing on the grounds of the Howe campus, the school’s agreement with its real estate company stipulates those signs can not go up until after graduation.

Rubin of Zacher, maintains that the company has followed the sale agreement.

The 135-year-old Howe institution has been struggling to stay afloat for decades now. In recent years, Howe’s enrollment numbers became stagnant, often hovering no higher than the mid-70s and occasionally climbing into the 80s. Malone said Howe needed to have 140 students on campus each year just to break even.

Once, in the 1950s and 1960s, Howe was home to more than 400 cadets in grades 7-12. Howe’s final graduating class, the Class of 2019, will be comprised of 11 seniors.

Malone said the age of the Howe campus started working against it. Most of the buildings on campus are well in excess of 50 years old and most need some sort of expensive maintenance. Malone said it now costs the trustees around $330,000 a month just to keep the school open.

Malone also said Howe’s trustees have been involved in several preliminary conversations with potential buyers for the campus. Malone pointed out that while the school is closing, it’s doing so without a penny of debt. He also said any money raised by the sale of the campus would be placed in a foundation to help maintain both the Howe Mansion and the St. James Chapel.
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