The Lyme Academy of Fine Arts has put its 26.31-acre parcel at 83 Lyme Street up for sale, asking $5 million.
Reached by phone on Friday, Stephen Tagliatela, chair of the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts Board of Trustees, said the academy has been looking for sources of revenue to keep its buildings open after University of New Haven disaffiliated with the school in August, and the school lost its accreditation.
Tagliatela said the site for sale is part of a land condominium that has five parcels. The academy owns one parcel for sale outright as well as one other. Developer Henry Resnikoff and a partner own two parcels, including acreage that he developed, constructing an 12-unit apartment complex that was used as a dormitory for Lyme Academy. The roadway leading to the apartment building is the fifth parcel.
Tagliatela explained that Resnikoff has ability to develop another 12 units on his parcels within the land condominium. “And when I say ‘ability,’ it still needs to go through planning and zoning,” Tagliatela said.
Resnikoff also released the academy from its long-term obligations to pay for the apartment units that were once used for student housing, Tagliatela said.
“He was very generous in allowing us to unwind the long=term lease with him so that released us of a tremendous obligation that we would have had to pay for,” he said. “We would have been in the housing business, which we don’t want to be in. It was negotiated and completed so that we would basically tear up that agreement so that he could take over those units and use them for market housing. He’s cleaning up those units now and is going to be putting them on the market for rent.”
The dorm apartments are not needed because the school has no immediate plans to have long-term students enrolling, Tagliatela said.
“We do not have accreditation so we do not have a college at this point,” he said. “We’re kind of starting over from scratch and we have a lot of assets, but there are also liabilities — we have over 40,000 square feet of buildings that we need to find a use for.”
One proposed partial solution is to rent space in the Chandler administration building to the France Foundation, an educational organization based in Old Lyme wanting to lease 6,000 square feet and needing to find space immediately.
“We’re on the zoning agenda Tuesday and it’s very important because of the France Foundation’s timing — they need to know where they’re going to be moving or they won’t have a home, so if we can’t get an approval from zoning Tuesday night, they disappear,” Tagliatela said. “We’ve brought many, many people through that building to try to get them interested and we’re very fortunate that we have someone who’s interested and it would be a huge financial burden if we can’t get the approval across the goal line.”
The board is forming a Strategic Planning Committee to decide on potential uses for the studio and administration buildings, he said.
“We have all this space and it’s just going to sit and deteriorate unless we find some uses for it. We have tons of space — our problem is we have too much space,” he said. “We are taking people from the community onto the committee, we’ve interviewed some people so it’s not just the board, we’re also getting an outside view and outside voice.”
The board has put together a no-frills budget for the school until further plans can be made, he said.
“We have a bare bones budget of $900,000 a year. Capital expenditures would not be included in that — it’s just to keep the lights on, keep the heat on, with a skeleton crew doing minor repairs, things like that,” he said.
Tagliatela said the school needs revenue in order to maintain the status quo.
“We need to fund raise and we need funding streams — that’s why we have the land for sale, that’s why we’re trying to get the France Foundation in, otherwise we’re going to have derelict buildings and vacant buildings, which is not to anybody’s benefit,” he said.
As for the $5 million ask, Tagliatela said the board relied on realtor Ron Lyman of Westbrook to set a reasonable price.
“You hire a reputable realtor and Ron Lyman is a commercial realtor, as well as residential. He’s very active in the area, knows the area quite well, so we’re relying on his expertise,” he said.
Resnikoff and Lyman could not be reached for comment at the time of publication