Oct 22, 2012

Heavenly Mountain Tract To Be Sold


The Watauga Democrat
by Kellen Moore
A 225-acre tract and three large buildings that were once part of the Transcendental Meditation center at Heavenly Mountain are now up for auction.

The property, owned by the Maharishi University of Enlightenment, will be sold online Oct. 25.

Once used for women’s educational programs in Transcendental Meditation and Vedic sciences, the buildings have sat vacant for several years.

The Maharishi University purchased the properties in May 2011 from Blue Mountain Holdings, a company associated with David and Earl Kaplan, the original developers of Heavenly Mountain, according to land records.

Thomas McMahon, a broker for Sperry Van Ness that is coordinating the auction, said the university did not explain why it was selling the properties now but is working to create a different campus for its programs in New York.

“After they bought them back, I think they had some change of heart,” McMahon said.

Representatives of the Maharishi University of Enlightenment could not be reached by press time Tuesday.

The property includes two dormitory buildings and a dining hall constructed in 1997, perched on a ridge with long-range views between Boone and Triplett.

The largest building includes 112 suites with living areas and kitchenettes, as well as a conference hall and several smaller meeting rooms, McMahon said. The second building is set up more like a hotel, with 98 rooms.

The third structure is a 13,000-square-foot conference hall with kitchen area on the bottom floor and an open dining area with large windows on the second floor, he said.

According to a property condition report provided by the sellers, the buildings are structurally sound with the exception of the main lecture hall, which they said can be strengthened without demolition.

As to be expected with an unoccupied space, there are some areas of mold and disrepair, as well as cosmetic repairs that would be necessary, the report states.

The buildings and the properties on which they sit combined have an appraised tax value of $8,189,100, according to Watauga County tax records.

Part of the acreage also was originally designated for single-family home sites and townhomes, McMahon said.

Bids on the property will start at $3.9 million, and the university does have an undisclosed reserve amount that must be met, McMahon said.

“This was a property that cost over $30 million dollars to build, so the sellers are putting it out there at a very, very attractive price point,” he said.

McMahon said the land originally was for sale on a traditional marketing plan before Sperry Van Ness offered a special auction plan to the owner. He said he already has received interest from multiple states and countries.

“We’re increasing this exposure to the world, instead of just to North Carolina,” McMahon said.

The “East Campus,” as it was once called, is separate from the 381-acre parcel called Forest Summit that was purchased in October 2011 by the Art of Living Foundation. That site is now the home of the International Center for Peace and Well-Being, which offers short-term and residential meditation, yoga and stress management seminars.

A foundation spokesperson could not be reached by press time Tuesday about whether the foundation might be interested in bidding on the new tract.

More information about the auction and the property is available online.

McMahon said even community members with no interest in the property could benefit economically from the sale of the property and possible future redevelopment.

“I really hope the community looks at this as a new beginning and a new opportunity and they would embrace the new ownership that would be coming,” McMahon said.

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