UConn has negotiated a tentative agreement with a private buyer for the possible sale of the land and buildings at its West Hartford campus, which it will leave as it prepares to open the new downtown Hartford campus in fall 2017.
The UConn Board of Trustees authorized University officials on Wednesday to negotiate the final terms of a formal contract with Weiming Educational Group, which would pay $12.6 million for the site. The company wants to open an international high school academy with student housing on the property.
Weiming was founded in 1999 and is headquartered in China, with a domestic office in Grand Rapids, Mich. It has more than 40,000 students at a network of 42 international boarding schools, where students get global learning experiences and collaborate in cross-cultural settings with area schools.
“If Weiming were to come to West Hartford, we would do so with the intention of being a welcomed and valued neighbor,” Weiming CEO Tim DiScipio wrote in a letter to town officials, which was also provided to UConn trustees.
“We believe our educational use is quite consistent with the current use of the campus and would, in fact, have far fewer students and generate significantly less traffic,” he wrote, adding that the company would be paying local property taxes and intends to hire a significant number of faculty and staff from the local region.
UConn is leaving the 58-acre West Hartford property next year to establish its downtown Hartford campus at a site anchored by the former Hartford Times building. Accordingly, UConn intends to sell the five buildings at the West Hartford campus and the land that it comprises, including the parking area and youth baseball fields currently leased to the town.
The Town of West Hartford has the right by law to match the terms of any offer that UConn receives, so UConn officials will also formally notify them of the Weiming discussions. If the town wants to buy it on the same terms as Weiming has agreed to, UConn would sell to the town.
The town, UConn, and Weiming were all aware that each party was talking to the others, and pursuant to state law, UConn had previously notified the town that it intended to sell the property.
Although the West Hartford Town Council hasn’t taken action on the option to buy the property first, UConn officials told trustees that conversations they have had with town leaders suggest they would likely support the Weiming purchase because it is consistent with the site’s educational use and would be a large, tax-paying local employer.
Weiming has also said it would convey ownership of the ball fields to the Town of West Hartford.
In addition, the company has said it would be interested in working with Connecticut universities to give their students a chance to teach a semester abroad at a Weiming location in Asia to build their experience.
If the Weiming sale does not occur, the town would have the right to buy the land at the terms negotiated with that company or to negotiate new terms with UConn, or to decline to purchase and instead free up the land for potential sale to another party.
If the $12.6 million sale takes place, state law requires that proceeds would be applied to UConn capital projects and could not be used for operational costs, such as replacing some of the millions of dollars that UConn has lost due to state budget cuts.