SOUTHINGTON - City officials and owners of the site of the soon-to-be-closed Lincoln College of New England are sending 150 letters to schools around New England in hopes of finding a replacement.
Economic Development Director Lou Perillo said the town is keeping its search regional because a national search wouldn’t be practical.
“We are sending out letters to regional private schools who might need an additional satellite location,” he said. “We are working with the property owner to see what we can do to assist them. We are trying to be proactive and see what interest we can garner. But we haven’t had anyone say that they are going to commit to it yet. We have received some letters back declining the offer.”
Lincoln College - formerly Briarwood College - announced in August that it would be closing on Dec. 31. Perillo said the property owner, Briarwood Real Estate Limited, “understands the potential” of the site.
“Lincoln College did a lot of good things for the community and for the town with their dental, forensics and mortuary sciences programs,” he said. “We would like to see them keep that functional model. It would be costly to convert a medical school building and I would hate to see it tossed away.”
Dennis Terwilliger, president of Briarwood Realty Inc., general partner for the property, said that ideally he would like to see another school move in before Lincoln College’s lease expires on Jan. 31, 2020.
“Another school could come, renting the space and this would give them a chance to get their feet on the ground and get started,” he said. “It would be a nice opportunity for a school that wants to come in without having a lot of expenses and it would give them a chance to build up.”
Terwilliger said he would like to see the site remains a private school, adding that the town does as well. Lincoln College, he said, brought in $160,000 a year in property taxes.
“If it were a school like Quinnipiac, which doesn’t pay property taxes, that would drastically affect the tax base,” he said.
Terwilliger noted that his partner, Dominick DiVenere, built the structures that make up Lincoln College “to last forever.”
“Lincoln had maintained the property very well,” he said. “They met their every obligation. I’m sorry that it didn’t work out for them, but I am hoping to attract another school to fill their shoes.”
Terwilliger said he had seen “some interest” on his end, but “nothing solid.” He said he wants to have a solid plan in place by early next year. Teachers, he said, would need to have at least that long to prepare for a fall semester enrollment.
“If a school doesn’t work out, Plan B is to look into how to repurpose the property,” he said. “I would go to the town and ask their permission about potentially using it for offices or apartments. One of the buildings already houses 20 apartments and these are really nice three-bedroom townhouse apartments.”
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or email@example.com.