The rumors have been rampant for some time now and proliferated when GE announced this week it was leaving for greener (and cooler) pastures in Boston. According to people connected to the school, Sacred Heart University is setting its sights on acquiring the GE property to address serious enrollment expansion in the last two decades or so. SHU taking over the property would cause some serious problems for the town as the property would become tax exempt.
Talk on social media by people connected to the SHU board of directors has been nearly singularly about acquiring the GE property. At least SHU alumna, says the school has been trying to expand its physical campus for years to keep pace with burgeoning enrollment (from 173 at its founding in 1963 to more than 7,000 today). Another source confirms SHU’s interest in the property.
Perhaps the most well-known, accomplished and most-quoted professor at SHU is Gary Rose, Chair of the Department of Government, Politics and Global Studies. In this case, he is so far, out of the loop. When asked about the school’s interest in the GE property says he’s heard the rumors but can’t confirm anything. “No one has shared that with me. I don’t have any facts on that,” he said.
There is no doubt Sacred Heart interacted closely with GE, including with scholarships and internships. “I placed a student there for an internship myself. The school has such relationships with a number of such companies,” Rose said. “But as to what all this means after [GE leaves], I don’t have any facts on that.”
While procuring the GE makes sense to SHU, it would cause some financial problems for the town going forward. GE pays about $1.6 million in property taxes to the town of Fairfield and will be making the next payment no matter what happens. However, if SHU or some other tax-exempt group owns the property, it comes off the town’s grand list.
Former state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney tells The Hanging Shad the future of the GE property is uncertain. “I don’t see another major corporation sliding into that property without a massive economic development package,” McKinney said. “And I don’t see that happening giving the [state budget] revenue projections released today.”
“Losing GE is certainly a big blow to the town. It’s the town’s biggest taxpayer. But it’s not as big a blow as to the people—the volunteers, the charities,” McKinney said.
There is no timetable for Sacred Heart to move forward on the GE property. It waited for years to buy the former Jewish Home property that abuts the school. This past November, the school agreed to buy the Great River Golf Course in Milford. SHU dedicated the Linda McMahon Commons Building in 2012.