September 21, 2022

ML7 Firm Has Made Offer for Westminster Campus

By Anne Levin

A recent Facebook post by the Westminster Foundation updated the Westminster Choir College community about efforts to restore the school from Rider University in Lawrence Township to its former campus in Princeton. While no definitive conclusion was included, “the fight is not over and our efforts and our commitment are ongoing,” reads the post by Constance Fee, president of the Foundation.

The Foundation is a coalition of alumni, students, and supporters of the choir college, which merged with Rider in 1991 and which Rider has unsuccessfully attempted to sell. The post describes an offer made to Rider by ML7, the real estate development and investment firm owned by Jeff Siegel. The firm would purchase the 22-acre campus and return Westminster to that location.  ML7, which has offices in Princeton and New York, owns multiple properties in town.

“Earlier this year, ML7 made a bid to purchase the campus and the choir college from Rider University,” the post reads. “Although Rider administration responded immediately to the bid, they will not engage in further negotiations with Siegel until the Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) claim on Westminster’s Princeton campus is resolved. We have approached PTS about settling their claim, but they wish to await the result of the trial court’s decision on their lawsuit and for our case to be decided by the Appellate Court.”

In a story in the Rider News, a statement from Associate Vice President for University Marketing and Communications Kristine Brown said, “Rider has received many inquiries as to purchasing the Princeton property, including from ML7, but is not in a position to sell until the litigation being pursued by the Princeton Theological Seminary is resolved.”

The Foundation and Rider are still awaiting a decision from the New Jersey Appellate Division of Superior Court about an earlier dismissal of two lawsuits to block the relocation of the choir college to the Rider campus [which happened in 2020]. That hearing took place May 16.

The suit from PTS claims it has beneficiary rights to the Princeton campus, because it was named as a steward of the Choir College by the person who originally donated the land for the campus in the 1930s.

Contacted by email, Siegel said he is currently traveling in Europe and unavailable for comment. According to the Westminster Foundation post, Siegel and his family “are longtime supporters of WCC and the broader Princeton community.” Trustees of the Foundation “have been in conversation for many months” with ML7, the post reads. Siegel extended the offer to Rider President Gregory Dell’Omo last January.

Randy Hill, the treasurer of the Foundation, said it is impossible to say definitively that Siegel’s offer will be accepted and the choir college will be restored to its Princeton campus. “We are doing all we can to bring it back,” he said. “We have a proposal which we think can make that move forward. But who can say? This is something that is a great opportunity. We’re trying to get all the parties in agreement with it.

“This is the greatest hope we’ve had in years to move Westminster back to Princeton,” he continued. “So we can’t give up on trying our best to see this through. That’s what our mission is, and that’s what we will continue to do.”