State would invest $15 million in Avery Point campus

Hartford — A $15 million investment in the University of Connecticut’s Avery Point campus has been included in the governor’s Next Generation Connecticut proposal, which allocates $1.5 billion in bonds to grow the university.

State Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford, said there was no specific allocation for Avery Point in the original proposal. But through conversations with university President Susan Herbst, $15 million was allocated for the campus in Groton, she said.

The Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee passed the bill that encompasses the governor’s proposal 43 in favor, seven against and four absent on Tuesday. The bill will next move to the floor of the Senate.

Gail Garber, director of government relations for UConn, said $10 million is for renovating two buildings and $5 million is for improving the Avery Point dock used for research vessels.

Avery Point campus director Michael Alfultis said it was great news and that he was excited about the waterfront piece.

Avery Point’s waterfront was built in 1904 when the Branford House Mansion was built, he said. The operating waterfront has two research vessels: one is used for research on water characteristics, biology and bottom habitat in the Long Island Sound, and the other is used for similar work in the ocean as far south as Cape Hatteras, N.C., he said. There are other vessels, a fleet of smaller research vessels, motorboats and a sailing club at Avery Point, Alfultis said.

“So we have all of this activity and don’t have a waterfront that is appropriately supporting it,” he said.

The campus will bring in an architect and firms to assess the campus’s needs from scratch, he said. More dock space and renovations to the original boathouse, the Morton Freeman Plant boathouse, will likely occur, he said. He said he would like to put offices, bathrooms and a classroom in the boathouse.

The $5 million won’t allow for Avery Point to splurge, but he said he thought the campus could get what it needs done.

The $10 million will go toward renovating the campus’s academic building, which houses the campus’s classrooms and faculty offices, as well as the community and professional building, which houses a variety of graduate level workforce development programs. These programs include nursing, teaching and engineering, he said.

He said neither building has modern climate control such as heating and air conditioning. The buildings use steam radiators, he said.

“Literally, during the winter, we have to open the windows because the steam is too hot,” Alfultis said.

The money could also be used to add handicapped-accessible bathrooms in both buildings and an elevator in the community and professional building, he said.

The classrooms also need renovations, and if there is enough money, the exterior of the buildings could use improvements, he said.

The buildings are from the 1940s when the Coast Guard had the buildings built out of cinder blocks, he said. The exterior walls are cracking, he said.

Mun Choi, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at UConn, said the decision to allocate $15 million of the $1.5 billion for Avery Point was made about three or four weeks ago. He said he met with many legislators who explained the needs of different UConn campuses.

“Avery Point is a very important campus for us with some successful programs in marine science and coastal engineering, and we recognized that we could play a role in engineering economic development,” Choi said.

He said exact renovation plans have to be negotiated among stakeholders but that the plan is to start the renovations in fiscal year 2015.

The $15 million plus the new $9 million student center opening in the fall “is going to inject a certain energy in the campus that makes it attractive to faculty and students,” Alfultis said.


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