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May 22, 2024

UPDATED: UConn could sell residence hall naming rights to fund Hartford lease deal; CRDA approves funding

HBJ PHOTO | DAVID KRECHEVSKY 64 Pratt St., Hartford.

The University of Connecticut could sell naming rights to a downtown residence hall to offset an estimated $1.5 million annual deficit. 

That was revealed by the UConn Board of Trustees, which met virtually Wednesday morning to consider a $28 million deal to develop an annex at 242 Trumbull St. in Hartford as a dormitory for students at its downtown branch. The board voted unanimously with two abstentions to approve the project.

Jeff Geoghegan, UConn’s executive vice president for finance and chief financial officer, explained that the project would develop 50 units with 200 beds for students. He said 70% of students surveyed “expressed interest in university-supplied housing,” and that a cost of $7,500 per academic year was “the major request we got back from the survey,”

The $27.9 million cost of renovating the building would be paid by the building owner, Shelbourne Global Solutions, which is partnering with Hartford-based real estate developer and investor Lexington Partners and Hartford-based LAZ Parking to develop the project. The developers will use $10 million in a first loan and $3 million in equity, in addition to seeking $10 million in interim financing from the Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA) and another $5 million in grants.

The CRDA board of directors held a virtual meeting Wednesday afternoon and unanimously approved funding for the UConn project, with one abstention. With that approval, the proposal now must be approved by the State Bond Commission. 

Geoghegan said UConn would enter into a 20-year lease with two, five-year extension options “at the discretion of the university.” The yearly rent payment would be $2.2 million, he said.

Board of Trustees Chairman Daniel Toscano explained that while UConn has no monetary commitment for the startup costs, “it is anticipated that this new housing will run an annual deficit somewhere in the range of $1.5 million. He added that if all of the beds are not utilized, the deficit could potentially top $2 million.

UConn does retain naming rights for the building, and Toscano said philanthropic efforts “becomes an important part of this.”

Board member Thomas Ritter said the $1.5 million deficit includes subsidies for student rents, because the school wants “to make sure that a lot of students can take advantage of that opportunity.”

He and board member Mark Boxer, an executive VP at Cigna, said they have also had conversations with downtown businesses about the possibility of renting rooms to corporate interns over the summer, which was not considered in the deficit calculations and would help reduce it.

The property to be developed is located at 64 Pratt St. and is an annex to 242 Trumbull St., which was acquired by Shelbourne last year. Shelbourne, based in Brooklyn, New York, is the city’s largest landlord. It purchased the mixed-use office/retail complex at 242 Trumbull St. for $4.75 million in June 2023.

The annex entrance at 64 Pratt St., which is closed to vehicle traffic, is about a 10-minute walk from the UConn Hartford campus, located a half-mile away in the former Hartford Times building on Prospect Street. It is also nearly right across the street from the XL Center, where UConn is leasing space to host a new agricultural and food science program, sports medicine center, mental health clinic and two lecture halls.

School officials have said UConn could begin offering downtown housing options by the end of this year or in 2025. In addition to serving undergraduate students, a downtown dorm could also accommodate students from UConn’s Hartford-based law school and Farmington-based medical school campus.

NOTE: This article was updated to include the approval by CRDA.

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