Quinnipiac buys new property for graduate programs

David Hutter

Quinnipiac University bought a 100-acre campus consisting of four buildings from Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in North Haven, representatives of the university and health care insurer announced Jan. 16.

The university plans to use the North Haven property to house a graduate education center, Lynn Bushnell, vice president for public affairs, said through an e-mail message. Until this transaction, the university had been considering the construction of a graduate health professions building on its recently opened York Hill campus in Hamden.

“This acquisition answers all our space needs for classrooms, faculty offices, and many other needs for the foreseeable future. With the exception of undergraduate residence halls, which we still plan to construct on the York Hill campus, this new campus meets all our space needs,” Bushnell said.

The purchase of the property coincides with the university’s continued growth in enrollment, expansion of programs of study, increased selectivity in admission standards and development of nationally ranked Division I athletic teams.

The terms of the transaction involve a sale lease-back deal in which Quinnipiac will lease part of the campus to Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield during the next 10 years, representatives of both parties said. This kind of arrangement is a rather common business practice, Karin Nobile, director of corporate communications for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Connecticut, said through an e-mail message.

“The company has chosen to sell its real estate in North Haven and pursue a sale lease-back arrangement with Quinnipiac University . to effect a very common real estate transaction that many large and thriving businesses throughout the nation have successfully implemented as a financial best practice,” Nobile said.

Before the university is allowed to use the new campus, it must conduct an environmental audit of the property within 75 days from the date of its purchasing the property at 370 Bassett Road in North Haven. This procedure will appraise the safety of the entire campus, Bushnell said. After the audit is completed, the North Haven planning and zoning board will also conduct a review of the property.

The university’s acquisition of the property is its third campus. The new graduate education center is scheduled to open in the fall of 2008, Bushnell said. The price of the transaction was not disclosed by either party.

The facility is currently the workplace of approximately 1,600 Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield employees, Nobile said. The number of Anthem employees working at the North Haven offices will gradually decline during the 10 years of the lease-back agreement, after which it will cease operations there entirely.

The impending departure of the health care insurer from North Haven will cause a significant reduction of tax revenue to the town, said Kevin Kopetz, the first selectman of North Haven. Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield is the town’s second largest tax payer. “[The decline in tax revenue] is a concern that we have,” Kopetz said.

One way the town hopes to offset this concern is through the enactment of the state government’s Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) program, under which the state would pay North Haven a percentage of the lost tax revenue that Anthem’s departure causes, he said.

Still, Kopetz is uncertain whether the state budget will be large enough to allow the state to give any money to the town per the PILOT program. But, if the state budget is large enough, the top administrator of North Haven is confident that state lawmakers would permit the payment of state money to North Haven.

“The governor and the state legislature do not have a theoretical problem or a philosophical problem with funding this program. It becomes a revenue issue at the state level,” Kopetz said.

Moreover, he is optimistic that the private liberal arts university’s move to North Haven, a suburban town of about 24,000 residents, will benefit the town’s economy.

“I see the potential of a great synergy between the university and the development of the town. As we go forward with this, I would really like to see the university and the various businesses of the area work together,” Kopetz said.