UConn’s Board of Trustees is slated to consider selling the former Torrington campus to the operators of a prestigious local art gallery, using the $375,000 proceeds to establish a scholarship fund for UConn students from Torrington and the vicinity.
UConn recently signed a “letter of intent” with Five Points Center for the Visual Arts of Torrington in which both parties agreed in principle to terms of the sale, which is slated to be presented to UConn trustees on Monday for their vote.
Five Points is a nonprofit organization that operates as a contemporary art gallery on Main Street in Torrington, and also serves as a community outreach and educational institution.
It wants to repurpose the Torrington site as an arts education campus for established and emerging artists, including cross-disciplinary artistic endeavors in the main building and an Art Park featuring artists’ works, a sculpture garden and walking trails on the surrounding land.
“Five Points is excited about our proposal for a multi-faceted visual arts education facility, which we view as a worthy successor to the Torrington campus’ educational legacy in Litchfield County,” Judith McElhone, Five Points’ founding executive director, wrote in the letter of intent.
Under terms of the proposal, UConn would sell to Five Points the approximately 5 acres of the core campus including the M. Adela Eads Classroom Building, a maintenance garage and the Litchfield County Extension Center building.
Depending on Five Points’ preference, UConn would also convey the approximately 85 undeveloped acres on the campus either directly to the City of Torrington or to Five Points, which would itself then convey that land to the city.
UConn closed the Torrington campus at the end of the spring 2016 semester based on declining enrollment. That downward trend had continued over many years despite efforts to recruit and retain undergraduates through increased marketing, scholarships, and outreach to the region’s high schools.
All current students at the time were offered spots elsewhere in the University, and although UConn continues to operate the Extension Center there and maintain the property, there are no academic programs or courses offered at the campus.
UConn’s trustees must approve the proposed agreement before it can move forward, but it comes to them highly recommended by the UConn staff and administrators who have worked for the last two years to find an appropriate buyer for the site.
“This transaction meets the needs of the many parties who have an interest in how the site’s use will affect Torrington and the region,” said Scott Jordan, UConn’s chief financial officer and executive vice president for administration.
“For UConn, being able to use the sale proceeds to offer financial aid to Torrington-area students fits perfectly with our mission to continue attracting and supporting Connecticut’s most talented students,” Jordan said.
“We look forward to seeing Five Points use the property in a way that benefits the region and the City of Torrington, which was such a valued partner and host to UConn when the property served as a campus,” he said.
The proposed sale must also be approved by the Litchfield County Superior Court before it could be finalized, since the classroom building was constructed in 1965 using donated funds from the estate of Julia B. Thompson, a Torrington resident.
UConn intends to use the entire $375,000 in proceeds for financial aid for students from Torrington and the vicinity, so the University is optimistic that the court will approve the establishment of that scholarship fund as meeting the intent of Thompson’s gift.
Under terms of the proposed sale, UConn would receive $275,000 at the closing for the buildings and adjacent land. It would then be paid the remaining $100,000 balance for the undeveloped land within the coming 10 years, with that money coming out of the proceeds of a cell tower ground lease on that acreage.
UConn would also:
- Continue to operate the Extension Center in its current building rent-free through at least 2028, with the possibility of extensions to add up to 10 more years after that at fair market rental value.
- Retain control of a wind tower on the undeveloped land and have access to that facility and the property for research, specifically a project in which UConn is studying the effect of wind on trees.
- Retain ownership of the red steel sculpture on the campus grounds created in 1982 by the late artist and publisher Alexander Lieberman, whose works can be found in prestigious galleries and art parks nationwide.