Chief Financial Officer Scott A. Jordan said that the University of Connecticut is against a proposed development of student housing in the area of Mansfield known as the “Four Corners,” in a recent letter to the Town Manager of Mansfield, Derrik Kennedy.
According to the letter written by Jordan, the main reason for UConn’s opposition to the proposed development is the lack of demand for more student housing.
“[The] proposal would likely entail the construction of space sufficient to support approximately 750 beds, all geared towards students,” Jordan said in the letter. “Our... concern is that we do not believe that there is a sufficient market to support additional high-density student housing of any kind off-campus at this time or for the foreseeable future.”
In a mid-November Mansfield Town Council meeting, council member Ben Shaiken, Democrat, said that he did not expect UConn’s opposition to the project, as housing developments in the Four Corners Area at the intersection of Highway 44 and Route 195 were an expectation from the beginning of the Four Corners sewer project.
“It’s very surprising to me to see one of the big players in this project feel all of the sudden... that any additional multifamily housing in the Four Corners Area would be detrimental to UConn and to the town,” Shaiken said. “I’m not saying this project is the project that’s going to get built, I’m not saying it’s the perfect project, I’m not saying it’s the right size. It’s a twinkle in the developer’s eye at this point.”
On Nov. 26, the Town Council discussed whether or not Mansfield’s zoning map, which shows what type of developments may be built in certain areas of the town, should be redrawn to allow this development to move forward.
Council member Elizabeth Wassmundt, Republican, said she was concerned that this development does not fit with the town’s original intent for the Four Corners Area.
“I question that this is consistent with the Mansfield Tomorrow study and vision for Four Corners area and that a large student housing complex will encourage businesses not consistent with the vision,” Wassmundt said.
Shaiken echoed her concern that the proposed development is not consistent with the town’s intent for the area.
“I don’t think I’m against [the development]... It’s more of a question of whether the Planning and Zoning Commission follows the plan of development,” Shaiken said.
Shaiken said that UConn’s raised concern for the “spirit of partnership” between the town and UConn.
“Maybe in the future we can invite UConn administration to come and address this issue, and maybe they’ll have a perspective we’re not considering,” Shaiken said.
University spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said that UConn’s letter does not bode ill for the “spirit of partnership” between the town and UConn.
“The town routinely shares its concerns with the university when it believes UConn may make a decision or take some action that could adversely impact the town,” Reitz said. “By the same token, the university also shares its concerns with the town when Mansfield may make a decision or take some action that could have a negative impact on the university.”
Reitz said that letters like this are instead one of the signs of a healthy rapport between the town and the university.
“Open and honest communication is one of the hallmarks of a successful partnership. Nothing has taken place that has diminished the spirit of partnership between the two,” she said.
Reitz defended UConn’s on-campus housing opportunities as a better alternative to off campus housing.
“The university believes on-campus housing offers students a great value along with convenience, camaraderie and many services that might not be available off campus,” Reitz said. “The ability for students to return to their rooms during the day, grab a quick meal in their dining hall and participate in programs in the residence halls with friends after hours is unique to on-campus living.”
Reitz said that the university is working to entice students away from such off campus housing developments and back into on-campus housing.
“UConn does a great deal to introduce incoming freshmen and transfer students to on-campus living, and to incorporate students’ suggestions to continuously improve the residence halls so upperclassmen continue to choose them as their home,” Reitz said.
Sachin Menon is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.