Quinnipiac’s campus to grow

As Yale administrators continue to discuss the addition of new colleges, nearby Quinnipiac University already has plans to drastically expand its facilities to accommodate a growing graduate school population.

In an agreement announced Tuesday, Quinnipiac will buy a 100-acre campus in North Haven from health insurer Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield. The property, which contains four commercial buildings including an auditorium and ample parking, will be used to build a Graduate Education Center.

“The North Haven campus will … [serve] the needs of our expanding graduate student population,” Quinnipiac University President John Lahey wrote in an e-mail. “The Quinnipiac plan is to maintain the Mount Carmel and York Hill campuses on both sides of Whitney Avenue as its primary residential undergraduate location in Hamden.”

Lynn Bushnell, vice president for public affairs at Quinnipiac, said that the Graduate Education Center will eventually house all of the university’s graduate schools, including its health sciences, business, communications and education programs, and eliminate the need for a health professions building on its York Hill campus. The expansion will also free up space on Quinnipiac’s Mount Carmel campus for undergraduate housing, reducing the proportion of undergraduates living in off-campus housing, currently estimated to be between 25 and 30 percent, Bushnell said.

Under the agreement, Anthem will sell the campus to Quinnipiac, lease the majority of it back and then gradually vacate the property over the next 10 years, said Karin Nobile, Anthem’s director of corporate communications.

“The sale will allow us to maximize our economic resources by re-directing the capital that is currently invested in real [estate] property to help fulfill the core business goals and objectives of the corporation,” she said. “[It’s] a financially-best practice.”

The agreement is subject to the town of North Haven’s environmental audits, zoning review and other standard commercial real estate assessments. Once the sale is approved, Quinnipiac will immediately begin to refit the first building in the four building complex, which has been vacant since 2000.

Anthem representatives said that the corporation intends to continue operating in the state when its long-term lease expires with Quinnipiac.

“While no one can predict the future, Anthem fully intends to maintain a strong local presence here in Connecticut,” Nobile said. “In fact, we hope that with this initiative … the corporation will be able to enhance the level of participation it has achieved in Connecticut and throughout the region.”

Kevin Kopetz, first selectman of North Haven, said the town will likely experience a loss in tax revenue, since Anthem is the second-largest tax payer in the community and Quinnipiac does not pay taxes as a private university. But the loss will be gradual, he said, since Anthem will exit the property over 10 years, which Kopetz said will give the town “time to adjust.” Officials are working to offset the impact of Anthem’s move by urging Connecticut state legislators to reimburse the community 100 percent of its losses by offering voluntary payments to North Haven as part of the PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) program, he said.

Kopetz said he also expects the positive economic impact of the University’s expansion, which coincides with the town’s planned growth, to compensate for the expected revenue loss.

“The establishment of Quinnipiac graduate programs will generate expansions in health care, communications, businesses, create internships and open up other sorts of relationships here in North Haven,” Kopetz said. “Such programs… will inspire and propel [North Haven’s] economic growth.”

Kopetz said the town will encourage Anthem to maintain its presence in North Haven after the 10-year period detailed in the agreement. Anthem currently has over 1,600 employees in North Haven, and about 1.5 million members in Connecticut.

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