September 10, 2012

$25 million plan to add new housing at Trinity

Trinity College and a New York-based development firm are planning a multi-million-dollar student housing project that would reshape the Hartford neighborhood surrounding the liberal arts college and provide the school a major boost in its efforts to attract students.

The development is still in the early stages but plans include the construction of five new townhouse residential buildings along the south and west sides of Crescent Street in Hartford.

The modern apartments with brick, shingle and metal design would add 300 beds near the Trinity College campus and replace old housing stock, officials say.

New York-based Kirchhoff Campus Properties is the private development firm leading the project. They will be responsible for owning and financing the residential development, but Trinity College would supply the students and help manage the property, said Paul Mutone, Trinity's vice president for finance and operations and treasurer.

Mutone said the price tag for the development hasn't been completely hashed out but he put it in the $25 million range.

"We haven't seen the final figures yet," Mutone said. "[Kirchhoff] has to determine what the final cost would be."

Mutone said the new housing stock will not add more beds to the Trinity College campus, but instead replace older residential buildings. Plans include bulldozing some existing buildings on Crescent Street to make room for the new development.

That land is owned by Trinity College.

The school has 1,859 beds on campus, Mutone said, but there hasn't been any new housing since the late 1990s. The newest housing complex on campus, Summit Suites, opened in 2000 and includes three separate buildings.

As Trinity's housing stock continues to age, providing new, state of the art facilities is important, especially as competition to recruit students is becoming increasingly intense, officials said.

"This is something the school has been thinking about for a long time," Mutone said. "From a competitive marketing advantage, this project would be critical."

Brian Cohan, a developer from Kirchhoff Campus Properties, didn't return several calls and emails seeking comment about the project.

But the firm does have a history with Trinity and was involved in the $33 million renovation of the three Long Walk buildings on the Hartford campus, according to Kirchhoff's website. That project, which took place a few years ago, involved the renovation and restoration of the historic Seabury and Jarvis halls and Northam Towers.

Mutone said he had previous experience working with Kirchhoff, and the school approached the New York development firm about the new housing project.

The five townhouse buildings would be constructed in two separate phases. In phase one, three buildings with 185 beds would be built. The second phase would give rise to two more townhouses with about 128 beds.

The buildings would contain three separate floors as well as kitchens, laundry and conference rooms, and student lounge space.

There would be some room for retail space as well.

The timetable for the development remains unclear, officials say.

The project would be at least the second major student housing development in Greater Hartford.

Central Connecticut State University in New Britain recently unveiled plans for a new $82-million, 220,000-square-foot residence hall.

The 640-bed facility will greatly expand access to students looking to live on CCSU's campus and will be one of the largest residential buildings on any of the four state university campuses when it is complete, possibly as early as 2014.

Meanwhile, at the University of Connecticut campus in Storrs the long-awaited Storrs Center development recently opened with 127 new apartment units for students and faculty.

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