HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– The first shovels in the dirt for the state’s newest urban college campus today as UConn begins the official move from its West Hartford campus to downtown Hartford.
The new UConn Hartford campus will take its place right along side the Front Street renewal project and the Connecticut Convention Center on the same blocks as the Wadsworth Atheneum and the newly expanded Hartford Public Library.
This is an effort to make Hartford more like New Haven and Stamford with a vital downtown that has lots of young people going to school and then graduating To become the city’s next crop of community and business leaders.
The $115 million project to convert the corner block immediately behind Hartford City Hall will be the final link in the Front Street renewal project that has taken the better part of two decades. It will Incorporate the “Beau-Arts facade” of the nearly century old “Hartford Times” building, the impressive entrance of the long defunct evening newspaper where JFK and Eisenhower held huge political rallies.
It will become the new entrance and main building of a 217,000 square foot downtown campus for more than 2,300 students faculty and staff consolidating the UConn Graduate Business Learning Center a few blocks away. “The fact that students will have access to the city’s businesses, corporations and organizations all at their fingertips will lead to endless opportunities, valuable experiences, and challenging endeavors,” said UConn undergrad Ashley Arthur at the ground breaking today.
That’s exactly the kind of synergy that Governor Malloy and UConn President Susan Herbst say will help to make the urban campus an economic driver for the Capital City. Creating more pedestrian traffic for the complex of restaurants, plus a concert hall and cinema complex that is just across Columbus Boulevard from the Connecticut Convention Center.
“This project will put what the retailers love to say; ‘feet on the street,’ thousands of students and faculty,” said Larry McHugh, the chairman of the UConn Board of Trustees.
The ground breaking today was a victory for Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra. A UConn graduate who for five years has been pushing for this and who is now facing four strong potential challengers in the September primary, “Our city for a long time, as a capitol city, lacked one important thing that many other capitol cities have and that is a public university presence right in the midst of our city.”
The UConn Hartford campus is scheduled to open in the fall of 2017. Efforts are still underway to find a purpose or potential buyer for the sprawling 57 acre campus in West Hartford but Town Manager Ron Van Winkle tells News 8 they have had no shortage of interested parties.