FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Sacred Heart University has entered an agreement to purchase General Electric's former headquarters in Fairfield that was vacated when the company moved to Boston earlier this year.
GE announced in January that it would close its Fairfield headquarters and move 200 employees to Boston. It opened its temporary new headquarters in Boston in August. The 66-acre property is being sold for $31.5 million.
SHU said it plans to use the property as an innovation campus, to expand its new School of Computing focused on computer engineering, computer gaming and cybersecurity, and to develop programs in STEM fields such as health and life sciences, science and technology.
"This is a transformational moment in the history of Sacred Heart University," said SHU President John J. Petillo. "With this property, SHU has a unique opportunity to contribute to education, research, health care and the community. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us, and it also reflects our long-standing relationship with GE that includes former GE CEO Jack Welch, for whom our College of Business is named."
The university will move certain elements of its Jack Welch College of Business to the new campus, including its new hospitality management program that will make use of facilities at both the GEO site and SHU's recently acquired Great River Golf Club in Milford. The school will also move its College of Education, art and design program, and the university's business office to the new site, eliminating the need to rent space in Trumbull.
The purchase brings SHU's total acreage to nearly 200 acres, not including the 150-acre Great River Golf Club. With the purchase by SHU, a nonprofit entity, Fairfield will also receive payments from the state's Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program.
“The growth we will experience as a result of this purchase will increase consumer spending in the community by Sacred Heart students and parents—a number that already stands at close to $56 million in the state,” said Michael Kinney, senior vice president for Finance & Administration at SHU. “In addition, programs developed by SHU in the next four years could add 450 students and 50-60 new faculty and staff jobs. New direct and indirect spending driven by operational and capital spending by the university, its employees, new students and their families and visitors would be a minimum of $27-33 million annually.”
Possible future uses for the property also include a performing arts space and recital hall, a swimming pool and running trails, and incubator space that would allow students to develop ideas for new products and programs in conjunction with investors and area businesses. SHU officials also hope the purchase will allow the university to develop partnerships with local health-care providers, providing clinical opportunities for students in the College of Health Professions and Nursing.
All plans are contingent on approval by the town of Fairfield and the ability of the university to raise the funds needed for these projects.
“We are pleased to sell our property to a world-class local university and are happy that the campus will continue to be used for learning and innovation, two hallmarks of both GE and Sacred Heart,” said Harri Singh, GE global properties leader.
“This purchase will benefit future students of Sacred Heart with added programs, new facilities and exciting opportunities,” Petillo said. “It will provide area residents and businesses with new facilities to use, increased consumer spending and additional jobs as well as incubator space that can develop much-needed economic opportunities for the area that are tied to a top-notch educational institution.”
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