The application for a zoning change for 1700 Asylum Avenue – the eastern portion of the former UConn West Hartford campus – has been submitted to the town, and the development has been renamed Heritage Park.
By Ronni Newton
Developer West Hartford 1 LLC has taken the next step in their quest to create a “neighborhood campus village” on the former UConn West Hartford property with the submission of a request for creation of a Special Development District and change in the zoning for the portion of 1700 Asylum Avenue where four multifamily residential buildings are being proposed.
The application by WeHa Development Group East, LLC, was submitted this past week, and is on the agenda to be officially received by the Town Council at its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 23. The Council won’t discuss the application at that time, but rather will refer it to the Town Plan & Zoning Commission (TPZ) and Design Review Advisory Committee (DRAC) for formal consideration and set it for a public hearing in not less than 30 days but in no more than 60 days according to town regulations.
Town Planner Todd Dumais told We-Ha.com that he expects the Town Council hearing for 1700 Asylum Avenue to be scheduled for March, to allow ample time for review of the extensive submission.
The overall project encompasses two separate parcels of land on either side of Trout Brook Drive, requiring two separate applications to obtain wetlands permits, as well as for zoning. The wetlands application for 1700 Asylum, which had been the subject of roughly 15 hours of public hearing split into three meetings, received unanimous approval from TPZ in their capacity as the town’s Inland Westlands and Watercourses Agency (IWWA) on Jan. 17.
Due to the need for further analysis of wetlands issues at 1800 Asylum Avenue, the application for that parcel was withdrawn in December and the developer has indicated plans to resubmit it sometime in the very near future.
TPZ has reviewed the proposal for 1700 Asylum extensively, albeit through a wetlands lens, and DRAC has also conducted extensive review of the design elements of both parcels during seven informal study sessions, the first of which was held on Oct. 27, 2022.
While both TPZ and DRAC will now be formally considering the application, and will render a decision, the results are technically in an advisory capacity because the approval of a Special Development District is within the purview of the Town Council. However, both TPZ and DRAC “play extremely important roles in the process,” Dumais said. In particular, if TPZ issues a negative referral, the Town Council cannot approve the application without a super-majority vote in favor.
The developer has continued to conduct outreach for the overall development, and while the working name for the development has been Oakwood Park, the West Hartford 1 LLC team has announced a decision to change the name to Heritage Park, with the apartments at 1700 Asylum to be called “The Residences at Heritage Park.”
“The proposed development continues to evolve and improve, and the changes reflect input received from our neighbors, West Hartford residents, and our ongoing discussions with West Hartford’s land use authorities,” a spokesperson for the developer told We-Ha.com on Friday. “This includes our decisions to pursue permitting approval for the project in two separate phases, one for the housing at 1700 Asylum Avenue and one for the mixed-use village at 1800 Asylum Avenue, and to rename the development ‘Heritage Park.’”
The project website has been updated to heritageparkwh.com.
1700 Asylum application
Four multifamily apartment buildings, a mix of four and five stories, with a total of 322 one- and two-bedroom units (110 and 212 respectively) are proposed for 1700 Asylum Avenue, on land that is currently an asphalt parking lot with 1,000-plus spaces. Formation of a Special Development District is being requested for the entire 1700 Asylum parcel, which is 23.9 acres, and the developer is also asking for 14.9 acres to be rezoned from single-family (R-10) to a RM-MS multifamily-multistory residence district zone.
The remainder of the property is the ball fields and playground, which the developer has committed to preserving along with 100 parking spaces for community use, and which will be accessible through a separate driveway.
Renderings included with the application indicate that 16 of the units, split between the four building and a mix of one- and two-bedroom units, will be designated as affordable units.
The developers’ proposal for the Residences at Heritage Park features a central lawn at the entrance. Building D (the largest building, located directly opposite the main entrance to the development) will includes a lobby with various amenities – including a drop-off for package delivery, guest, and car services, as well as “an elegant lobby, leasing center, club room, private dining area, coworking lounge, game room, and fitness and wellness center,” the application states. An exterior courtyard will feature a pool, fire pits, grills, and other outdoor community space. Three of the four buildings will also have “roof decks that offer views of the surrounding meadows” that include lounge areas and fire pits.
As one of the conditions of approval of the wetlands application, the developer has committed to creation of a conservation easement, “to preserve and protect those sensitive areas in perpetuity.” There is also a commitment to preserving the Champion White Oak, which was extensively discussed during the wetlands hearing process.
The entire application that was submitted to the town – which includes traffic studies, neighborhood outreach reports, stormwater management, and other details – is now available online as part of the Jan. 23, 2024 Town Council agenda packet.
Status of 1800 Asylum
As was the case with 1700 Asylum, the wetlands application for 1800 Asylum must be approved before further consideration of the development plans can move forward.
The wetlands application for 1800 Asylum Avenue – the western, and larger portion of the 57-plus-acre former UConn campus where several buildings must also be demolished and PCBs and other environmental hazards remediated – was withdrawn in December due to the “more complex design challenges,” according to the developer.
For 1800 Asylum, the developer is currently proposing 14 buildings, including a 117-assisted living facility, 24 townhomes, and 106 apartments in two mixed-use buildings above retail or restaurants. The plans also include a premier restaurant, a destination spa, and an organic grocery store.
West Hartford 1 LLC finalized the purchase of the former UConn campus property, on an “as is” basis, from then-owner Ideanomics, for $2.75 million, on Dec. 29, 2021. In a document provided as part of neighborhood outreach in December 2023, the developer stated that they estimate it will cost “more than $5.5 million to remove the decaying buildings and remediate the property’s contamination and will invest even more to restore, replace, repair and rectify the impact from years of a declining landscape of abandoned lawns and overgrown invasive vegetation.”
The application for 1700 Asylum indicates that while the applications are being submitted separately, the entire site was acquired “with the intent of creating a unified mixed-use village development on both sides of Trout Brook Drive with diversified housing opportunities between the parcels, supportive commercial uses, exciting restaurant and spa opportunities, and an integrated public trail system connecting both sides of the development including extension of the Trout Brook Trail to the north.”
Prior to submitting the SDD application for 1800, the developer intends to have another informal study session with DRAC, perhaps before the end of January.
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