Ideanomics, which purchased the former UConn West Hartford campus in 2018 for the purpose of developing a global center for technology called Fintech Village, has entered into a contract to sell the property for $2.75 million.
By Ronni Newton
The long-vacant 58-acre former UConn West Hartford campus at the corner of Trout Brook Drive and Asylum Avenue, which was purchased by Ideanomics for $5.2 million in 2018 for the purpose of creating a global technology center – plans for which were unveiled with great fanfare in July 2019 – is now under contract to be sold to an unnamed entity for $2.75 million.
John Cafasso, a principal with the Colliers International Hartford office which was engaged by Ideanomics to market the property last July, confirmed that it is under contract but was not able to provide any other details.
“The sale process is ongoing, and there is no further comment at this time,” Cafasso said Saturday in a phone interview.
Cafasso did state, as he had noted previously, that multiple offers for the property were received, vetted by Colliers, and several offers were presented to Ideanomics.
In a March 31, 2021 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Ideanomics disclosed that the company had accepted an offer and entered into a contract for sale of the West Hartford property that had been identified a year earlier in a regulatory filing as a non-core asset. “The company has identified Fintech Village as a non-core asset and is evaluating its strategies for divesting of this asset,” Ideanomics stated in March 2020.
“On January 28, 2021, the Company’s Board of Directors accepted an offer of $2.75 million for Fintech Village, and subsequently signed a non-binding sale contract on March 15, 2021. The Company believes that Fintech Village met the criteria for held for sale classification on January 28, 2021,” the March 31, 2021 filing states.
No further information about the sale, including a projected closing date or the terms of the contract, were noted.
Although he said he has not yet been in contact with the prospective buyer, West Hartford Town Manager Matt Hart expressed optimism.
“I believe that the pending sale of the Ideanomics property is good news,” Hart said in an email Saturday. “Assuming that the sale is finalized, I’m looking forward to meeting the new owner and learning about their plans for the site.”
The Town of West Hartford entered into an arrangement with Ideanomics to take over the maintenance of the property – which had become overgrown – as of July 1, 2020, after Ideanomics had disclosed its plans to divest itself of the asset. The town also entered into a six-month right of first refusal, which it allowed to lapse at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2020.
While the right of first refusal lapsed, and Ideanomics was required to assume responsibility for the maintenance of the property, as part of the initial agreement the lease of the ball fields and playground area was automatically extended for another six months, through June 30, 2021, Hart said in December.
Hart said Saturday that the town has requested an extension of the lease through 2022.
“This property is very important to the town, given its location and size as well as the fact that we have the Miracle Field and other municipal playing fields located onsite,” Hart said Saturday. “We welcome the opportunity to work closely with a new owner to see that the property is remediated and redeveloped in a manner consistent with our [Plan of Conservation and Development].”
Details have not been disclosed regarding whether Ideanomics, or the buyer, will be responsible for completing remediation of contaminants on the property, which include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and asbestos. One of the five buildings on the former campus was demolished by Ideanomics’ contractor in 2019 as part of the remediation process, and some additional clean-up has also taken place.
The property is currently zoned for single-family residential use, and in keeping with the POCD, Hart said previously that acceptable uses for the property would include “other residential uses like multifamily.” The community vision for the property, he said, “calls for maintaining the open look and feel of the campus.”
The 1700 and 1800 Asylum Avenue properties, which total roughly 58 acres, a large portion of which are wetlands, were marketed without a listed price.
While the parcel is a rarity as a large tract of land, strategically located and available for development in Central Connecticut, the inability to build in the wetlands and need for remediation pose significant barriers, as does the need to amend zoning for anything other than single-family housing – which previous analysis has indicated would not be financially viable on its own for a developer.
Ideanomics purchased the 58-acre former UConn campus “as is” for $5.2 million in October 2018, with the intention of building Fintech Village – a $400 million center for global technology and innovation – on the property, and creating jobs for upwards of 300 people. They committed to assume all responsibility for remediation of the contamination which occurred when the state owned the property and constructed the buildings for UConn.
A $10 million loan through former Gov. Dannel Malloy’s First Five Plus program for capital renovations, which could have been forgivable if job creation targets were met, was part of the original plan but the project never reached a stage where the funds were provided.
The project ultimately stalled for a host of reasons, and in financial reports Ideanomics has stated that the company has shifted its focus from financial services to the Electric Vehicle sector.
In March 2020, Ideanomics CEO and Fintech Village President Alf Poor told We-Ha.com that the company was seeking potential partners for the Fintech Village project. Hart said that it was a mutual decision in the spring of 2020 between the town and Ideanomics to begin crafting the agreement which took effect July 1, 2020, when the town extended its lease on the ball fields and entered into the now-lapsed maintenance agreement and right of first refusal.
UConn initially announced its plans to relocate its Greater Hartford campus downtown in 2012, and although the town ultimately chose not to purchase the campus several years ago, it undertook a robust community engagement process to develop a vision statement for the property, which was adopted by the Town Council in April 2018.
Any changes to the existing single-family zoning would require approval of the Town Council.
For information and background about West Hartford’s previous history with the campus, the purchase plans, and interviews with Ideanomics principals, click here.
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