UConn’s former Torrington property will become an arts education campus under a sale agreement approved Monday, with UConn using the proceeds to fund scholarships for undergraduate students from Torrington and the region.
The Board of Trustees approved the sale of the property to Five Points Center for the Visual Arts of Torrington, a transaction from which the $375,000 proceeds will fund UConn scholarships for admitted students from parts of northwest Connecticut.
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 plans 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.
Under the terms of the agreement, UConn will 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 will also convey the approximately 85 undeveloped acres of the campus either directly to the City of Torrington or to Five Points, which would itself then convey that land to the city.
“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 a Letter of Intent that the parties signed before the agreement was formalized.
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.
The property sale had to 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.
The University intends to use the entire $375,000 in proceeds for financial aid for students from Torrington and the vicinity, so officials are optimistic that the court will approve the establishment of that scholarship fund as meeting the intent of Thompson’s gift.
“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,” he added.
“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.
Under the terms of the proposed sale, UConn will receive $275,000 at the closing for the buildings and adjacent land. It will 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 will 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. That piece will eventually be moved to UConn Storrs, although a timeline has not yet been determined.