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Dixie State University, St. George seamstress agree to ‘tailor-made’ real estate transaction

As the growing school moved closer and closer to her home, Alice Hiatt knew she couldn’t move until she found a solution that fit just right

Dixie State University President Richard “Biff” Williams, Alice Hiatt and DSU Vice President of Administrative Affairs Paul Morris pose on the steps of Hiatt’s house after she agreed to sell it the Dixie Foundation.
Dixie State University

SALT LAKE CITY — If you live in St. George and need trousers altered or a dress hemmed, odds are you know Alice Hiatt.

For years, Hiatt has worked out of a shop attached to her home across the street from Dixie State University’s football stadium.

The campus has literally grown up around her as it has evolved from a junior college to a four-year college, and most recently to a university that last fall had an enrollment of nearly 11,200 students.

“I have a large clientele. If you Googled me on alterations you would see that I’m five stars, best ratings and all that stuff. My business is so busy,” Hiatt said.

Hiatt and her husband Lynn have lived for 20 years in the modest 1,078-square-foot home, which sits on about one-third of an acre. Theirs was the lone property that the university didn’t own on the Atwood Innovation Plaza block.

Over time, traffic increased to the point “that it’s hard for my customers to get in and out of my place and for us to get in and out of it,” said Hiatt.

But the couple had limited means, and the idea of moving elsewhere was complicated by St. George’s hot real estate market, the amount they could get for their home if they sold it and finding a place to live that meets their needs.

For several years the university let her know it was interested in buying her house, but Hiatt wasn’t interested in selling — unless they could meet her “criteria,” she said.

“I knew I didn’t need to sell. They couldn’t force me to sell ... I was willing to stay right here,” she said.

In recent years, the Hiatts updated part of the home and added concrete parking in their front yard. Although she was aware of the university’s plans to turn that portion of the block into a parking lot, “I was willing to stay and have parking all the way around me if they didn’t meet the criteria that I needed,” she said.

The conditions were that the university would buy their home and pay off their mortgage so that they could buy a comparable home a few blocks from campus.

In December, the Hiatts closed a deal with the Dixie Foundation that fit just right. And they’ve found a new house, complete with a mother-in-law apartment that will be converted to Alice’s Tailoring.

The house had been a rental for many years until the owner suddenly decided to sell it. “So I feel like it’s a blessing from heaven because we were able to get it. They (Dixie State University officials) were very, very good to us, very kind,” Hiatt said.

When the sale went through, Hiatt, Dixie State University President Richard “Biff” Williams, and vice president for administrative services Paul Morris posed on the house’s steps for a photograph.

Because the property sold for over its appraised value, the university had to ask the Board of Regents to approve the purchase. The board, which met Friday in the House Building adjacent to the Utah State Capitol, gave its OK.

Morris said the deal had to close quickly so the university did not have time to run the purchase through the customary approval process. It will repay the Dixie Foundation $424,745 using institutional reserves. The property had an appraised value of $238,000, according to Utah System of Higher Education documents.

“We knew it had to be a certain transaction or Alice simply couldn’t move. You have to do the best you can with situations and we found a great balance. At the end of the day everybody’s smiling,” he said.

The Hiatts will remain in the home on University Avenue until the renovations at their new home are completed. Then, once they move, the house and another structure the university owns on the property will be leveled to make way for 200-250 parking spaces.

“It’s a nice add to the campus,” Morris said.

Enrollment keeps climbing, with university’s spring enrollment up 18% over last spring.

“You can imagine the pressure that’s putting on our infrastructure, parking being part of that,” he said.

For Alice, there is much to do to prepare for the move, but their new home is one level, which will suit them better. She is an artist, so she’s carefully packing the artwork that decorates their home, she said.

“I’m excited to be in my last home and the Lord provided a very good one. I’m excited about it. It’s close to where my aunt lived while she was still alive. She lived right next door to where I’m moving. It was the old neighborhood when I was a kid, you know,” she said.

She and her husband, married 57 years, will be in the same ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that they attended when they were married.

“We’re back in the 6th Ward to end our days,” she said, softly laughing.