[Updated, May 10] The Town of West Hartford was able to negotiate a lower price over the weekend, and will be purchasing the West Hartford campus directly from the University of Connecticut. A statement from the University of Connecticut has now been included.
By Ronni Newton
Update, May 10
UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz provided the following clarification via email about the purchase price agreed to between the University and the Town of West Hartford for the UConn campus:
“If the town sells the property, it pays 90 percent of the net proceeds to UConn, minus all amounts previously paid toward the purchase price. Those amounts depend on whether the town sells before or after the two-year period before it pays that final $4 million.”
“No matter when the town sells, UConn would receive a minimum of $5 million,” Reitz said.
The Town of West Hartford has made a decision to purchase the UConn West Hartford campus rather than allowing it to be sold to China-based Weiming Education Group, Mayor Scott Slifka said Monday.
The Town will pay $5 million for the property – a major reduction from the $12.6 million price that UConn had negotiated with Weiming.
“We said all along that we were in favor of acquiring the property at a reasonable price in order to control the disposition,” Slifka said. “The hang up was the purchase price and the decision was not an endorsement or indictment of any potential use,” he said.
“At the $12.6 million it would be difficult to recoup our investment,” Slifka said. “We had hoped to get a price like this for months, and now it’s in a range so we’re very comfortable with this,” said Slifka in response to the $5 million price tag.
Slifka said that Town Manager Ron Van Winkle approached UConn and negotiated with the University on terms over the weekend that were presented to an executive session of the Town Council Monday morning.
Town Manager Ron Van Winkle said that terms of the agreement will include a provision so that if the Town turns around and decides to sell the property to Weiming, UConn would get 90 percent of the profit.
“The University is looking at us as a certain buyer,” he said. That was a major factor in the University’s decision to negotiate the reduced price. The Town will be able to purchase the property without need to secure zoning or other approval in advance.
“This preliminary proposal would require approval from both the West Hartford Town Council and the UConn Board of Trustees,” UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said in a statement.
“If adopted, we believe the transaction would be beneficial to both UConn and the town. The university will have successfully conveyed the property and the town will be able to control it, determining its ultimate use and ownership,” Reitz said.
According to Reitz, UConn will receive 90 percent of the sale price if the Town sells the property to a third party at any time before October 2024.
“This proposed financial arrangement is a fair reflection of the property’s value, since that value depends on its use. UConn recognizes that the future of the property is critically important to West Hartford residents, and this proposed transaction serves the needs of both the town and the University,” Reitz said.
In a statement, Weiming Education Group CEO Tim DiScipio said the company is still interested in the property. “We understand how special the University of Connecticut site is to the Town of West Hartford and appreciate and respect its decision to purchase the property,” DiScipio said. “We continue to believe that West Hartford is a terrific community and Weiming remains interested in the site for a potential future private high school. We will continue to explore this and other sites in the Greater Hartford area.”
The terms of the agreement are expected have minimal budget impact, Slifka said. The first $250,000 deposit will be due to UConn in 60 days, with another $750,000 due in 90 days. The remaining $4 million will not be due for two years, he said.
The funds will need to be appropriated by the Town Council, and Van Winkle said a resolution will be drafted authorizing negotiation of a purchase and sale agreement and the appropriation of funds at the May 16 special meeting that was already planned for Slifka’s resignation and election of a new mayor. Slifka said he anticipates “strong support” among Town Council members.
Van Winkle said that the Town is able to negotiate this agreement because a purchase and sale agreement between UConn and Weiming had not yet been executed. “It was just letters of intent,” Van Winkle said.
West Hartford now has a 90-day period to continue due diligence work that has already been in process. The Town Council and TPZ will have to approve the purchase and sale agreement before it is executive.
“There’s a lot of work ahead of us, but now we will own it,” said Van Winkle. “We have time but we will need to figure out what to do with it.”
Slifka said that the Town’s purchase of the property will allow for a reasonable discussion of the future, while not having a negative impact on the Town’s budget.
Last week, hundreds of residents attended a public information session to voice opinions about whether or not they thought the Town should purchase the UConn property and to understand the nature of any agreements with Weiming Education Group and West Hartford Public Schools that are currently in place and might impact the future of the property.
Also last week, UConn had granted the Town of West Hartford an extension of time until June 17 to purchase the property for the same terms that had been offered to Weiming Education Group.
“We will now have the ultimate and final control,” said Slifka.
Check back for updates.
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