UConn and global innovation firm Ideanomics signed the necessary paperwork Wednesday to complete the sale of the University’s former West Hartford campus to the company, which is transforming it into a high-tech development called Fintech Village.
Ideanomics, formerly called Seven Stars Cloud, paid $5.2 million for the 58-acre property, which UConn stopped using as an academic campus last year when it moved those operations to downtown Hartford.
The University had worked in the time since then to sell the campus, both because it had no future use for the property and to avoid the annual $500,000 cost to maintain it while it was empty.
Ideanomics agreed earlier this year to buy the property and its buildings, though it will later need the town of West Hartford’s approvals for the proposed development. The UConn property sale itself was not contingent upon West Hartford’s approval.
Ideanomics 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.
Ideanomics plans to invest $283 million-plus for Fintech Village, where work will focus on being an ultra high-speed computing facility and laboratory for developing new and leading edge Fintech solutions utilizing artificial intelligence, deep learning, IoT, and blockchain. The project is expected to create at least 330 jobs.
“It is fitting that the UConn West Hartford campus, which housed a renowned institution of higher education for decades, will soon become a world-class technology hub. It’s also an ideal complement to UConn’s efforts to cultivate and promote lasting jobs and economic development in our state,” said Scott Jordan, UConn’s Executive Vice President for Administration and Chief Financial Officer. “We look forward to working with Ideanomics on the transition of this property, as its exciting vision for the site becomes reality.”
Jordan joined others from Ideanomics and UConn on Wednesday to sign the necessary documents, also handing over dozens of carefully marked master keys to the various buildings and facilities on the former campus.
The 58-acre property currently includes five buildings, along with associated parking and open acreage near Asylum Avenue and Trout Brook Drive. Ideanomics has hired Newman Architects, an award-winning Connecticut architecture firm with extensive experience in West Hartford, including renovations to Hall and Conard high schools, to plan and design Fintech Village.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said that as the greater Hartford region continues to emerge as a hub for high-tech and innovation industries, Connecticut’s best-in-the-nation workforce is prepared to help companies like Ideanomics thrive and grow.
“A commitment by a company like Ideanomics to establish their global headquarters for technology and innovation here in our state makes Connecticut an even more attractive place to live and work, and will have an impact far beyond this one location in West Hartford,” Malloy said. “We welcome Ideanomics to our state, and wish them many years of success and growth.”
Ideanomics is working closely with West Hartford on the development of Fintech Village, and will design and build the property in a way that is sensitive to the surrounding community and the environment.
“We intend to expand upon the original campus’ dedication to excellence by enhancing the efforts to educate, create the ultimate in learning and R&D environments, and by building out the campus to attract top tier academic talent, companies, entrepreneurs, and innovators from around the world,” said Bruno Wu, co-CEO and Chairman of Ideanomics.
“Our Fintech Village technology campus will stimulate the highest innovation by boasting the finest in urban design, sustainable and green technologies, and improvements to community connectivity factors such as trails for walking, biking, and enriched urban flow,” he said.
Ideanomics also agreed to assume full responsibility to address any environmental conditions that need attention on property, and agreed to back that commitment with a financial assurance and an environmental insurance policy.
UConn has worked closely with Connecticut environmental officials in recent years regarding conditions on the site after PCBs were found in window caulking and some other building materials, which is not uncommon for buildings like those that were constructed before PCBs were banned.
Taken as a whole and given its prime location, UConn had long felt that the property had enough potential economic value to make it worthwhile for a developer to purchase the site and remediate the PCBs as part of a redevelopment plan.
West Hartford previously leased ball fields from UConn on the east side of Trout Brook Drive. Ideanomics is taking over the lease, which lets the town continue to use 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.
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 cannot 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 must 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. Jordan said one of the projects that will be funded with the money is the removal of contaminants at the former site of the UConn Stamford garage, which the University demolished earlier this year to make way for surface parking.
Since UConn marketed the property itself, there is no real estate broker and no commission that will decrease the amount returning to the University.