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March 4, 2024

Privately developed college dorm in downtown Waterbury pays off; UConn’s Avery Point campus leadership shows interest

HBJ PHOTO | MICHAEL PUFFER Joseph Gramando is the managing partner of Green Hub Development, which developed student housing in Waterbury.

UConn officials aren’t just considering student housing in Hartford — new residential space could also be added near the school’s Avery Point campus in Groton.

Early talks have occurred between the university and Joseph Gramando, managing partner of Green Hub Development, a firm that brought college dormitory housing to UConn’s Waterbury campus in 2017.

In Waterbury, Green Hub spent about $7 million to buy and renovate the top two floors of a three-story, mixed-use office building, at 20 East Main St., located almost across from the downtown UConn regional campus.

The effort transformed the long-vacant, 68,388-square-foot “Brown Building” into dormitory suites for 90 students. The city of Waterbury provided zoning relief and a tax abatement to aid the project.

[RELATED: Set for Hartford growth spurt, UConn seeks to offer downtown student housing]

Unlike Waterbury, however, Avery Point’s seaside campus in Groton doesn’t have nearby large empty buildings ripe for housing conversions, Gramando noted. The area also lacks apartments in general.

Avery Point enrolled 531 students this fall, 464 of whom are undergraduates.

Gramando said his idea is to build student housing on space granted through a long-term land lease. He stressed talks are in the early stages, and far from an actionable proposal.

‘Real college experience’

Gramando said he modeled his rehab of the Brown Building in Waterbury to match UConn’s vision of dorm life.

Green Hub provides resident advisors on each floor and a building manager. The building is open to any higher-education student, but draws mainly from the nearby UConn campus. Today, the building houses 70 UConn students and 20 pupils from Post University, which is also located in Waterbury.

UConn senior Leslie Akuffo, 21, lives at a privatley run college dorm in downtown Waterbury.

Gramando said the dorm is a powerful draw for students seeking convenience and a residential college experience. There are study hall rooms for collaboration, and the building hosts events like holiday and Super Bowl parties, movie nights and cultural potluck dinners.

The property also has a security guard, hallway cameras and electronic locks, Gramando said.

“What we built was a real college experience for these students, and parents like it,” Gramando said.

Gramando said the dorm has been a good investment, and Green Hub has retired all the project debt.

Green Hub in Waterbury is also currently rehabbing a roughly 130-year-old, 39,537-square-foot office building near the UConn campus for university programs and classes. The roughly $15 million rehab of the prominent, six-story Odd Fellows building, at 36 N. Main St., launched in September and is expected to wrap up by the summer of 2025.

Gramando said he expects the expansion will eventually result in demand for more student housing.

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