SOUTHINGTON — A New Haven developer intends to close on the former Lincoln College campus next week, changing the previous plans to build houses on the property.
Mendel Paris, a property owner who is entering the Southington and Meriden markets, said he has a Jewish school that will hold summer programming at the campus starting this month. Paris and his partner are still working to find a long-term tenant.
“I can see what it can become. It’s a gorgeous property and it’s a beautiful area,” Paris said. “We want to bring it back to life.”
He recently closed on 81 W. Main St. in downtown Meriden, a commercial and residential property.
The for-profit Lincoln College closed in 2018. Owners of the property as well as town officials tried unsuccessfully for years to find a buyer or tenant for the campus.
That led owners to consider tearing down the college buildings and putting age-restricted houses on the 32-acre property on Mount Vernon Road. Local planners approved a zone change from residential to age-restricted cluster housing that would have allowed such a project.Housing plans scrapped
Dennis Terwilliger, one of the campus property’s owners, was working with local developer Mark Lovley to design a housing subdivision.
Terwilliger said he was glad when Paris came to him about buying the land and keeping the campus buildings.
“I think people will be a lot more happy in the area to see the school...,” Terwilliger said.
Lovley said he joined the college property project to help prevent federally funded Section 8 housing, an earlier possibility mentioned by Terwilliger. The Section 8 program allows private landlords to rent apartments and homes at fair market rates to qualified low income tenants. Lovley said such housing wouldn’t be good for the town and was glad to help Terwilliger plan market-rate homes.
Without town sewer access, houses would need septic systems. Lovley said that limited the number of houses that would fit on the property and greatly narrowed the profit margin. Further hampering the deal was the loan property owners had on the land along with the cost of demolishing the campus buildings.
“The numbers were so tight,” Lovley said.
He agreed to back out of the project when Terwilliger said they had a buyer for the land.Future possibilities
Paris said he’s excited about the Southington project and finding a good use for the campus.
“Our long term plan over there is to find a tenant to lease the place out,” he said. “We’re talking to different schools now… We have some other interested parties.”
Town Planner Rob Phillips said property owners can continue using the land as a school or submit to build a housing development as approved last year.
Before last year’s zone change, the property was residential. There are other uses allowed in residential zones, such as medical offices or rehabilitation clinics, with approval by the Planning and Zoning Commission. Terwilliger had proposed some of those uses in an attempt to attract tenants, but withdrew the plan due to opposition from neighbors.
To have those options again, Phillips said the new owners would have to get the property rezoned as residential.