West Hartford City Council approves UConn campus vision statement – We-Ha

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City Council unanimously passed a resolution approving the vision statement and set of guiding principles for the future of the UConn West Hartford campus.

By Ronni Newton

At a special West Hartford City Council meeting on Tuesday evening, a resolution to adopt the vision statement and guiding principles for the 58-acre UConn campus property, developed after an extensive public education process, was was approved 6-0.

The community engagement process, conducted with the assistance of consultant Milone & MacBroom, took place from January to March and included an online survey completed by over 2,700 people and two community forums attended by over 250 people. in total.

The draft vision statement and the six guiding principles – printed in full below – were reviewed by the Ad Hoc Council Economic Development Subcommittee on March 29 before being submitted to the Council. whole council as a resolution for approval on Tuesday.

“This vision statement is the culmination of outreach efforts,” city planner Todd Dumais told Council on Tuesday, and is “supported by the community”.

City Manager Matt Hart told Council that the vision statement and guiding principles will be helpful to future buyers, as well as Council when considering the use of the site, for which they retain authority to land use.

“The comments I have heard from people in the community have been universally positive,” said Dallas Dodge, board member, who chairs the ad hoc economic development subcommittee, of the process.

Everyone “recognizes the importance of this property as a community asset,” said Dodge, not only to the neighbors but to the city as a whole.

Dodge has stated that while UConn’s ownership “may not be everything for everyone”, some will be happy while others will be disappointed with the end use, as the user authority of West Hartford lands, city council will maintain significant control and community engagement results “Will be an important set of guiding principles”.

The city does not own the property, but has developed a vision statement to help UConn market the property to potential developers who will then have an understanding of the types of projects the city would be more likely to approve.

Dumais previously told the ad hoc subcommittee that in developing the vision statement, the city and the consultant were trying to capture what the community highlighted as important during the engagement process, namely “growth. of the big list, the preservation of natural resources ”and the maintenance of part of the property for community use. The vision statement was deepened, Dumais said, to emphasize the importance of neighborhood-appropriate architecture, preserving setbacks, keeping spaces open and being responsive to the residential neighborhood around campus.

The vision statement reads as follows:

Future development or redevelopment of the UConn West Hartford campus should strike a balance between growing the big list, protecting natural resources and preserving areas for community use. The campus should retain its open appearance and unique blend of green spaces, woodlands, wetlands and developed areas. Future development must be of high quality, attractive, and at a scale and intensity that is contextually sensitive to the surrounding neighborhood. Through creative and thoughtful site design, future development should be set back from surrounding residential areas and should preserve the open look and feel of the campus while protecting environmentally sensitive areas. The playground, sports facilities and support parking in the south-eastern part of the site are an integral part of the city and should be preserved for community use. Innovative means such as creating public-private partnerships to maximize areas for community use on campus, such as extending the Trout Brook Trail, are strongly encouraged.

The guiding principles are:

  • UConn West Hartford Campus Offers Big List Growth Opportunity in a Contextual Way
  • Explore development or redevelopment opportunities that provide a combination of uses incorporating creative, high-quality design that will improve the fiscal well-being of the City
  • Intensity and changes in use must be carefully analyzed and reviewed for compatibility with the neighborhood. Care should be taken to ensure that the open look and feel of the campus is maintained; that large buffer zones, trees and green spaces be protected; and that public access and use to significant areas of functional open spaces be preserved
  • Seize opportunities for the growth and retention of strong community-supported uses, such as cultural, educational and recreational, on all or part of the campus
  • Ensure that future development or redevelopment protects and enhances environmentally sensitive areas, features, wetlands and floodplain resources
  • Strong community engagement should continue in any effort relating to campus reuse, especially those leading to land use decisions.

Councilors Leon Davidoff, Dallas Dodge, Mary Fay, Liam Sweeney and Ben Wenograd, as well as Minority Leader Chris Barnes, voted in favor of the resolution. Mayor Shari Cantor, who is a trustee of the University of Connecticut, stepped down from the discussion and the vote, and Deputy Mayor Beth Kerrigan and council member Chris Williams were absent.

UConn Special Counsel Richard Orr informed city officials on Monday that the university will be installing security fences around three of the now vacant buildings on the old campus.

UConn has been marketing campus property since the city decided to terminate the purchase and sale agreement in December. UConn spokeswoman Stefanie Reitz said Monday UConn was “still in negotiations with a handful” of potential buyers, but did not yet have a contract in place.

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