Cranbrook Schools buys property to house international students

Cranbrook Schools has purchased a former residence for retired nuns and other women and plans to renovate it to house the school's international students.

The Bloomfield Hills school bought the former St. Elizabeth Briarbank Home for the Aged, at 39315 Woodward Avenue. The home, operated by an international Catholic nuns order, housed retired nuns and elderly women who were paying residents of the facility.

The St. Elizabeth Briarbank Home closed last year after 80 years. The more than 13-acre property went up for sale in the fall, and Cranbrook Schools bought the property on April 15. No purchase price was released by the school.

The property consists of buildings, including dormitory rooms, said Cranbrook spokeswoman Julie Fracker. 

The Cranbrook Academy of Art is one of the top graduate art programs in the country.

"In the short term, Cranbrook plans to use the existing facilities on the property as temporary residential housing as we anticipate and plan for renovations of the Cranbrook Schools and Cranbrook Academy of Art dormitory spaces," Fracker said Friday.

The purchase was made with the full support of the Cranbrook Educational Community Board of Trustees and senior leadership, said Fracker.

"Our facilities team is currently accessing the property, and we do not have an established timeline for when it will become operational at this time," said Fracker.

Between the Academy of Art and the Cranbrook and Kingswood campuses, Cranbrook has about 300 rooms for its high school and graduate students who live on campus. Cranbrook plans to renovate its current facilities for the housing areas, but the school has not established a timeline for the project, said Fracker.

Cranbrook's current campus is 319 acres.

"The acquisition of the property represents a fortunate and rare opportunity, which serves Cranbrook’s strategic priorities and vision. In the short term, the existing facilities on the property are well suited to offer temporary residential housing as we anticipate and plan for much-needed renovations of the Schools and Academy dormitory spaces," said Fracker. "Beyond that, and in terms of long-term use, there are many excellent possibilities being discussed."

Cranbrook is a private school with about 1,650 students from preschool through grade 12. Tuition ranges from $34,200 and $52,000, depending on whether a student boards at the school, according to the school's website.

Cranbrook Schools has 800 Upper School students, and 240 of them are boarders from across the United States and abroad, said Fracker. She said about half of Cranbrook's 140 graduate art students reside in dormitories on campus.

Cranbrook Schools had an endowment of $228 million in 2019.

bwilliams@detroitnews.com