UConn’s former West Hartford campus has been selected as the anticipated new site of an international high-tech company’s United States headquarters.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Tuesday that Seven Stars Cloud Group Inc. plans to establish its global headquarters for technology and innovation at the former UConn regional campus, which the University would sell to the company for $5.2 million.
The UConn Board of Trustees will hold a special meeting Friday to vote on a resolution authorizing the University to negotiate the purchase and sale agreement for the 58-acre site, which UConn stopped using as an academic campus last year when it moved those operations to downtown Hartford.
Seven Stars has already said it is willing to buy the former campus property now rather than waiting for the town of West Hartford’s approval for their proposed development, although it would need to go through those zoning approval processes once it owns the land.
Seven Stars has agreed to assume full responsibility to address any environmental conditions that need attention on property, and has agreed to back that commitment with a financial assurance and an environmental insurance policy.
West Hartford currently leases ball fields from UConn on the east side of Trout Brook Drive. The sale to Seven Stars would give the town the rights to keep using the fields through the end of the current agreement with UConn – which expires in June 2020 – but also gives the town the right to extend the term for five more years to June 2025.
The 58-acre property currently includes five buildings, along with associated parking and open acreage near Asylum Avenue and Trout Brook Drive.
Gov. Malloy and Bruno Wu, chairman and chief executive officer of Seven Stars Cloud Group, said during Tuesday’s announcement at the State Capitol that they want West Hartford to be a partner in discussions about how the development occurs at the centrally located site.
“We also want to become a very good citizen of the West Hartford local community, because the campus is a beautiful piece of property,” Wu said, noting they hope to modernize and reuse some of the existing buildings and will also add more landscaping, a spring and other park-like features.
“We have already engaged the best architectural firms that would help us make sure that the campus will become more like a public park,” Wu said.
Seven Stars Cloud is a Nasdaq-listed global financial technology company that leverages artificial intelligence and blockchain technology to transform traditional financial assets, as well as industrial, media, and consumer assets, into digital ones.
The company expects to create about 330 jobs at the site in coming years as a participant in a program through the Department of Economic and Community Development.
UConn previously had a tentative agreement with the Town of West Hartford for the municipality to purchase the former campus site, but the town later terminated the agreement and the University started marketing the property directly to attract potential buyers.
Despite budget constraints, however, UConn could not use the $5.2 million to help pay for personnel costs or other expenses covered by its annual operating budget, or to make up for money that the state has cut from the block grant it gives UConn each year.
Rather, the money would likely have to be applied to capital projects to meet state law and the requirements of the bonds that were issued for improvements to the West Hartford campus.
Since the University marketed the property itself, there is no real estate broker and no commission that would decrease the amount returning to UConn for capital project costs.
The University would work to execute the purchase and sales agreement soon after the trustees’ vote if they approve it Friday, with closing and transfer of title anticipated this fall.
Upon closing, the maintenance and operations expenses to UConn would end, although Seven Stars has agreed that the UConn Extension Service could keep occupying the former Information Technologies Building at no cost through Nov. 29.