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Developer Submits New Wetlands Application for 1800 Asylum Portion of Former UConn West Hartford Campus

Former UConn West Hartford campus library, now owned by West Hartford 1 LLC. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

In addition to formally applying for a wetlands permit, West Hartford 1 LLC has submitted updated renderings for review by the Design Review Advisory Commission this week.

West Hartford 1 LLC submission of 1800 Asylum to DRAC. Town of West Hartford website

By Ronni Newton 

West Hartford 1 LLC, the developer looking to transform the former UConn campus into Heritage Park, has taken the next step in gaining approval for the western portion of the development, just weeks after the Town Council approved the plan for four buildings with 322 residential units to be built at 1700 Asylum Avenue with by an 8-1 vote.

The most recent version of the proposed development of 1800 Asylum includes 12 buildings, ranging in height from one to four stories, with a mix of commercial and residential uses. The proposal includes a 26,488-square-foot organic grocery store, several restaurants, a destination spa, and a variety of housing. New to the most recent proposal are garden-style apartments, and the diversity of proposed residential development also includes townhomes, apartments, and assisted living units.

Rendering of proposed signage for Heritage Park – the new name of the proposed development for the former UConn campus in West Hartford. Courtesy image

Robin Pearson, attorney with Alter & Pearson and a member of the development group, has submitted a new wetlands application on behalf of WeHa Development Group LLC to West Hartford’s Town Plan & Zoning Commission (TPZ), in their capacity as the town’s Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency (IWWA), for 1800 Asylum Avenue, which is roughly 33.5 acres. The two portions of the 57-plus-acre campus had originally been submitted together, but were officially bifurcated for consideration separately late last year.

At its regular meeting Monday night, TPZ received the application for 1800 Asylum, determined it to be “significant” in accordance with their official procedures, and set a public hearing for Monday, June 24, at 6 p.m. at Town Hall, Town Planner Todd Dumais confirmed to We-Ha.com on Tuesday. Once the application has been received and deemed significant, TPZ has 65 days to hold a hearing, Dumais said, and recognizing the need for ample time to review the material the special meeting was set. The next regular TPZ meeting is on the calendar for the week of the July 4th holiday.

Dumais said staff and the town’s third-party consultant have started their review of the application, which is lengthy and more detailed than the earlier submission that was withdrawn in December, and are in the process of developing questions.

Some demolition of the former UConn campus buildings has already taken place, and occurred when the property was owned by Ideanomics, and Dumais said wetlands applications that were previously approved for the demolition operation – for removal of the buildings and associated soil around the foundation – are still valid although they are roughly five years old.

View of demolition of one of the four buildings on the former UConn campus in March 2020. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

Remediation plans have been created and approved for removal and disposal of contaminants in the buildings and surrounding soil, but while the demolition process could be resumed without wetlands implications, Dumais said, other work will extend into additional areas of the property and “require environmental remediation” subject to approval by the state. The coordination of that process with the wetlands permitting process remains unclear, he said, and could require a back-and-forth consideration with the state.

In her letter accompanying the wetlands application, Pearson noted that the “development envelope is limited by the extensive area of grassed wetlands that are located throughout the site, as well as by two man-made ponds in the site’s center. Remediation of existing environmental contamination is also included in the development program, as is the creation of a wetland resource-oriented passive recreation system of pedestrian paths and linkages to the town’s expanding walking-trail system.” The only construction proposed to take place within a wetland would be the “filling of a small, isolated, wetland pocket of low-or-no functionality identified at the corner of building #5,” which is proposed as a three-story residential and retail building.

West Hartford 1 LLC submission of 1800 Asylum to DRAC. Town of West Hartford website

While the development of 1800 Asylum Avenue cannot move forward until a wetlands permit is approved, and any zoning change or application for a Special Development District has not yet been made, the Design Review and Advisory Committee (DRAC) will conduct an informal study session of 1800 Asylum Avenue this Thursday, reviewing the latest plans for the project with a focus on the architecture rather than just the siting of the buildings.

Among the recent changes to the overall proposal is a reduction in the overall number of residential units at 1800 Asylum to 211 (from 247 in the previous submission), with the largest difference being a reduction of assisted living units from 117 to 90, and a reduction in the number of townhomes. The overall amount of impervious surface has also been reduced, Dumais said, and buffers and setback distances have been increased. The locations and footprints of some of the buildings have changed slightly as well.

The main roadway into the development has also been realigned, to create an intersection with Fox Meadow Lane across Asylum Avenue – which was recommended by DRAC.

Wetlands application for 1800 Asylum Avenue. Town of West Hartford website

The developer noted in their most recent proposal that since the last study session conducted with DRAC, in January, trail modifications have reduced direct wetlands impact; drive aisles and driveways have been narrowed to reduce disturbances in the upland review area; permeable pavers will be introduced; the number, height, and size of duplex townhouses along Lawler Road and Asylum Avenue have been reduced; and additional screening has been added to parking areas to meet zoning regulations.

West Hartford 1 LLC submission of 1800 Asylum to DRAC. Town of West Hartford website

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