UConn must weigh options before granting land for hotel

The University of Connecticut is seeking hotel developers to construct a hotel on university property, as reported in The Hartford Courant. The university would grant land to the developer, but would not provide any financing.

Before making such a move, the university must consider whether the demand for a hotel is so great that granting land to a developer would be the most beneficial use of the land. Should this be the case, the university must also consider which plot of land is the best to grant.

The Hartford Courant notes that special projects manager Alan Calandro claims there is sufficient demand to merit constructing a hotel. He also stated that the university required a better quality hotel than the Nathan Hale Inn & Conference Center. The Nathan Hale Inn had been losing money when the university purchased it this year; the university currently “operate[s] the inn as a mix of hotel and dorm rooms,” as reported in The Hartford Courant.

The contention that demand for a hotel is high enough to justify granting land to a developer must be reconciled with the history of the Nathan Hale Inn. The fact that the Nathan Hale Inn was losing money and that the university currently relies on the inn for student housing may suggest that demand for a hotel is insufficient for one to be viable.

The university’s argument may be that the Nathan Hale Inn is of such low quality that visitors would rather stay in a better-quality hotel further from campus. This is a reasonable argument, but the university should support it with evidence.

Even if a hotel would be viable, the university must determine that granting land to a developer would be the best use of its land in the long-term. As the university continues to expand, it may want to construct additional academic buildings or dormitories, which requires land. Before granting land to a developer, the university must be sure that constructing a hotel would yield more long-term benefits than any other future potential use of that land.

This leads to the final consideration UConn must make. The Hartford Courant reports that the land grant could be “close to the heart of the campus,” or it could be on the Depot Campus. Given the higher value of land on the main campus, the university should determine which location would maximize benefits for the university. Perhaps a hotel on Depot Campus would be close enough to satisfy demand without sacrificing prime land that may be better used for other purposes.