Home Construction Long-vacant United Healthcare building in Trumbull (finally) sold

Long-vacant United Healthcare building in Trumbull (finally) sold

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48 Monroe Turnpike.

The long-vacant 250,000-square-foot office building and parking garage at 48 Monroe Turnpike in Trumbull — which represented more than half of the empty space in the town — has been purchased for approximately $3.4 million.

Senior Living Development LLC (SLD) and Silver Heights Development LLC, which have developed a number of age-restricted residential projects throughout Fairfield County, 55 acquired the property and expect to submit applications to Trumbull’s Planning and Zoning Department to develop a senior housing community for individuals age 55 and over, probably in October, according to SLD Managing Member Mark De Pecol.

“It’s a great town,” said De Pecol, whose Fairfield-based company operates Sunrise of Wilton, Sunrise of Fairfield, and The Residence at Summer Street in Stamford, with The Residence at Selleck’s Woods in Darien and The Residence at Westport both scheduled to open next year. The company also operates a number of similar facilities in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont.

De Pecol cited Trumbull’s “strategic location” in upper Fairfield County as a paramount consideration. With easy access to the Route 25 connector to the Merritt Parkway, I-95 and Route 8 — plus the 17.6-acre site’s adjacency to the Pequonnock River Trail on Route 111 and its location directly across from restaurants, fitness, massage and other retail outlets as well as being close to numerous health care providers — De Pecol said purchasing 48 Monroe Turnpike was a relatively easy decision.

“Trumbull was right at the top of our list” of potential sites, he said. “It’s an under-served area, especially when it comes to the senior demographic.” An extensive market study revealed that Trumbull’s 75-plus population is expected to grow by 10 percent over the next three years, he noted.

The deal came together in about three months, De Pecol added. “We’re always looking for properties and do an enormous amount of diligence,” he said. “In part, that included talking to all the different departments, including Planning and Zoning, Economic Development, Public Works, police and fire departments, and other town staff.”

The SLD/Silver Heights proposal will, if approved, convert the existing building into a 200-unit independent, assisted and memory care community, while the additional acreage will have 160 units of active adult housing.

The property was formerly leased to United Healthcare, which employed 1,200 people at the campus. The two-story building also included structured parking for 700 cars. It has stood empty since the company exited in 2015 in favor of more up-to-date accommodations on Research Drive in Shelton.

De Pecol noted that the Class B office building was built in the late 1980s with heavy load construction and high ceilings.

“Most office buildings are squares, but this has an irregular shape, which along with its structural integrity makes it ideal for this kind of conversion,” he said.

The developers are seeking a zoning change from business/commercial to industrial/residential, De Pecol said. Though unwilling to hazard a guess at the proposal’s chances of approval, he said that the town had been “very cooperative and encouraging — we’ve been very impressed by their professionalism.

“That was a big factor for us,” he added. “The approval process can be very grueling, especially if you’re fighting against the tide.”

If approved, construction could begin by next summer, De Pecol said.

“We’re certainly ecstatic to see this property purchased,” said Vicki Tesoro. Elected last year as Trumbull First Selectman, she noted that addressing the town’s vacant properties had been a keystone of her campaign.

Trumbull Economic and Community Development Director Rina Bakalar said the property represented 52 percent of the vacant space in the town. “It’s also an exciting development from a sustainability perspective,” she said. “Other developers might have just torn it down and rebuilt, but since this is such a well-built building, with a parking garage that can be adapted to their needs, it’s really great.”

Tesoro said that providing housing for seniors “is a very important component. We want our seniors to be able to stay in our community, and this goes a long way towards that. I can’t stress that enough.”

She further noted that a number of jobs will be created at the facility; De Pecol put that figure at 50.

Trumbull has been on a roll lately when it comes to development. A 202-unit luxury apartment complex at the former Canon Solutions America building at 100 Oakview Drive was approved last year; the former corporate headquarters of the Pilot Pen Corp. at 60 Commerce Drive is  being redeveloped; and a 10,000-square-foot medical building at 123 Monroe Turnpike, to be anchored by Firgeleski Chiropractic Center, is under construction. In addition, consumer goods company Henkel added a 27,000-square-foot, two-story research and development center adjacent to its existing facility on Trefoil Drive in January.

Still looming is the Westfield Trumbull mall’s proposal to add 290 apartments to its property at 5065 Main St., a controversial move that requires a zoning change, basically from a mixed-use property to a mixed-use design district.

“We’re seeing quite a bit of activity,” Bakalar acknowledged. “But while (the SLD project) is of course a big deal, we still have a lot of vacancies and potential vacancies in smaller buildings.”

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