Heifer International said Monday that a plan for an entity affiliated with Lyon College of Batesville to purchase its headquarters campus in Little Rock has fallen through. The move will likely delay the projected 2025 opening for the private liberal arts college’s dental and veterinary schools.
The purchase agreement to sell the Little Rock campus to OneHealth Education Group of Little Rock “expired last week and the sale will not be completed as planned,” Heifer said in a statement to Arkansas Business. “While many parties worked diligently on the transaction, the buyer informed us that they would be unable to complete the purchase within the timeline agreed upon in the purchase and sale agreement.”
Heifer declined to discuss financial details of any proposed agreement.
OneHealth had planned to buy the 94,000-SF building and land at 1 World Ave. for Lyon's new Institute for Health Sciences. The institute would oversee Lyon's dental and veterinary schools.
OneHealth CEO Merritt Dake said in a statement to Arkansas Business that “we remain committed to helping Lyon College build these two schools in Little Rock.” In a separate statement, Lyon College President Melissa Taverner said the college is committed to creating the state’s first veterinary and dental schools.
“We are actively collaborating with the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, the City of Little Rock, the Clinton Foundation, and the Downtown Little Rock Partnership on our planned dental and veterinary medicine schools, ensuring that the academic programs continue to progress with unwavering momentum,” she said via email.
Lyon announced the plans for the schools in April 2022. It has named deans for both schools and started the accreditation process for each.
Last month, the college said it was aiming to start dental school classes as soon as summer 2025, with vet school classes to begin that fall. A Lyon spokesperson had said that officials could break ground for new buildings on the Heifer campus before the end of the year, after OneHealth closed on the property.
On Oct. 17, the city of Little Rock’s board of directors approved Lyon’s site plan for its Institute for Health Sciences. The site plan, prepared by Cromwell Architects Engineers and Moses Tucker Partners, both of Little Rock, showed five new structures on the Heifer property, including two parking decks, an auditorium and two separate buildings for the dental and vet schools. According to the plan, the institute's administrative and faculty offices would occupy the first and second floors of the Heifer building.
A Lyon spokesperson said Monday that while the school is moving forward with the accreditation process, “we’re going to have to look at timelines when everything comes to fruition.
“This is something that’s new that’s transpired,” the spokesperson said. “This news is so new to us. We’re just having to look at everything.”
Meanwhile, Heifer said it will explore options for the property.
“Heifer International and the Heifer Foundation had planned to lease back portions of the office building following the sale,” the statement said. Both organizations “remain strongly committed to their presence in Little Rock” and plan to remain at the campus office building.