UConn Board of Trustees approves lower price to sell West Hartford campus


University president Susan Herbst listens as UConn general counsel Richard Orr presents information about the sale of the West Hartford campus during the UConn Board of Trustees meeting on April 26, 2017 in the Next Gen Hall. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

The University of Connecticut’s board of trustees unanimously approved a lower price for the sale of its branch campus property in West Hartford on Wednesday morning, shortly after West Hartford’s town council voted to buy the property for $1 million Tuesday night.

This price is down from the $5 million price tag originally agreed upon for the soon-to-be retired Greater Hartford campus. The revised deal also extends the time of a “clawback” provision: should West Hartford sell the campus to another buyer, UConn will receive 90 percent of the sale price. That provision now lasts until October 2026.

“The administration’s view is that it is better to sell for the $1 million price rather than canceling the transaction and going to market to try to find an alternative buyer,” UConn general counsel Richard Orr said at Wednesday’s board of trustees meeting.

Orr said the revised deal was prompted by two changes in circumstance: the first is that West Hartford is expecting a reduction of nearly $14.5 in state funding next fiscal year under Gov. Dannel Malloy’s budget, according to the Hartford Courant.

The second was that the town recently discovered it would cost nearly $6 million to both demolish the building and clean the soil of PCB contaminants, which are common to buildings of that age, Orr said. Those costs would be necessary to convert the property into a public park.

“Our shared goal was for UConn to sell the property to the town at a price that was affordable for the town, given the environmental costs associated with the campus, and their potential budget challenges,” UConn CFO Scott Jordan said in an official statement. “This agreement accomplishes that. Should West Hartford decide to sell the property to a private developer, 90 percent of the price paid for the property will go to the university. We are very pleased that the town will be able to control this important property and determine its future use in the best interests of West Hartford and its residents.”

The clawback provision for 90 percent ensures UConn will still get the most it can out of the deal if the town can find a buyer such as a private school or a housing company, Orr said at the board meeting.

“The 90 percent provision is designed to say if the town wants to keep it as a park, (UConn) will take our million and we’re done,” Orr said. “But if the town flips it and gets a higher price, because it’s a UConn asset, (the town) will do out fine because we’ll take 90 percent of the purchase price but they will effectively get their $1 million refunded and they’ll get the other 10 percent.”

A new Downtown Hartford campus in the capitol city will replace the Greater Hartford campus in West Hartford this August.

Chris McDermott is the news editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at christopher.mcdermott@uconn.edu.

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