UConn Casting Wider Net In Downtown Hartford For Campus Relocation

by Categorized: Downtown Hartford Date:

The University of Connecticut said today that it is seeking proposals from downtown Hartford property owners and landlords who may have space suitable for the relocation of its West Hartford campus.

“The intention is to cast as wide a net as possible,” UConn spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz told me this morning. “There may be properties out there that may be a good fit. There may be owners and landlords that haven’t thought of approaching the university.”

The campus could be in one or more buildings. Proposals could include undeveloped land, indicating UConn is open to building something new, Reitz said.

When the university disclosed plans in November to sell its West Hartford campus and relocate students and faculty to downtown Hartford, UConn expected the move to take place “within a year.”

Reitz said that could still happen, but an extensive renovation of an existing building or new construction could delay the move. Reitz said the university isn’t being more specific than that.

Proposals are due Feb. 27.

More information on the university’s requirements can be found on its web site here.

It was known that the university was actively studying the possibility of relocating the campus to the former Travelers Education Center on Constitution Plaza. The university hasn’t commented on any sites it is considering, but the board of trustees approved $243,000 for the study.

Reitz said the university first looked at properties that were clearly available and might fit the needs of the relocation.

Thursday, Reitz again declined comment on the education center or any other sites it may have already considered.

“Nothing is a front-runner and nothing is ruled out,” Reitz told me.

An advertisement that will appear in Monday’s edition of the Hartford Business Journal says the university is looking for 150,000 square feet of space for classrooms, laboratories, offices, conference rooms and other uses. Day and evening enrollment will be at least 3,100 students and 300 faculty members.

There must be parking for 850 cars during the day and 800 at night.

Here is the advertisement that will appear in the HBJ:

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31 thoughts on “UConn Casting Wider Net In Downtown Hartford For Campus Relocation

  1. Ralph

    I have worked at the Hartford Campus for more than ten years so I think I have a good perspective of the situation. Here are some points that should be considered.

    1. The proposed move was presented to the faculty and staff and an accomplished fact with absolutely no discussion. Everybody was shocked when they heard about the move. Anybody who was unable to attend the meeting first learned about the move when they read it in the Courant.

    2. Admittedly, the campus infrastructure does need work. Even so, it has to be cheaper than renovating a decaying building downtown to the standards needed for student use.

    3. I have asked many students about the move and the general consensus is against it. Most students are juggling part-time jobs and family responsibilities with their academics. They go to classes, may sit in the cafeteria for a while and then go back to their lives. The idea that an influx of students downtown will increase business at Max on Main or any of the downtown businnesses is ridiculous. The cultural facilities downtown are either priced out of reach or are simply not of interest to students who are swamped between all of their responsibilities.

    4. Students like the West Hartford campus. It is easy to get to and there is plenty of safe parking available across the street. Even with a downtown parking garage, it is inevitable that a student taking night classes will be robbed (or worse) going to her car late at night.

    5. Has anybody thought about what to do with the campus? Other area schools (UHa, the town of West Hartford and USJ in particular) simply have no use for the campus. It is wetlands so any construction will lead to engineering problems.

    This is a good time to leave well enough alone. Leave the campus where it is, fix it up and don’t force a ridiculous, expensive move down the throats of students who are already paying too much for tuition.

    1. Catspaw

      I would like to thank Ralph for a comprehensive critique. At first blush the Constitution Plaza seems a marvelous location, but the UCONN administration is AGAIN acting in secrecy with public funds.

      We have too many examples that have shown UCONN administrators are either padding their own wallets or incompetent.

      The review here, and many other reviews, suggest UCONN is again acting in an insular and probably incompetent manner.

      It is time to stop the UCONN profiteers. As much as a Constitution Plaza Campus sounds wonderful, the people it is supposed to serve are not being listened to and UCONN seems bent on a path that appears again a self indulgent gravy train.

  2. Brendan

    As a UConn alum, present UConn law student and Hartford resident, I think the move is great. I hadn’t been there for a few years, but now I’m taking a class right now at the School of Public Policy. It was looking pretty rough last time I was there and now it’s looking terrible. The buildings were never very well made and they’re definitely at the end of their useful life. Why sink a bunch of money into a satellite commuter campus that has mediocre highway access?

    To the commenter above, Ralph, I suspect it is a long time since you’ve visited downtown Hartford. For one, Max on Main closed about 20 years ago. So, it’s true, no UConn students will dine there unless they take a class with the time traveling physics teacher out at Storrs. However, the influx of students that CCC has brought downtown has been a mild boon. For far too long, downtown during the day had been a gray swamp of corporate boringness. A UConn branch with ~3,000 students is the equivalent of Trinity moving downtown (minus the housing of course). With respect to all the downtown fear mongering, it’s just fear mongering. Further, students don’t like the branch because of the facility or location, they like it because it’s cheaper than Storrs, offers more flexibility with respect to night classes and has smaller class sizes.

    Given the bargain basement prices of downtown real estate, I can’t imagine that moving, build out and a lease would approach the cost of a comprehensive renovation in West Hartford.

    I’m bumming that I’ll have graduated by the time the move is complete.

    1. Downtown Worker

      Thank you, Brendan, for your well-informed comments. You’re right that Max on Main is now called Max Downtown, and that students would more often eat at less expensive restaurants like the ones I go to every day (Subway, Bibo’s, Quiznos, the soon-to-open Panera Bread, Rose Gourmet, DD’s Gyros, Saigon Kitchen, Burger King, any of the 5 Dunkin’ Donuts, etc.)

      Those of us who have been here the past few years have seen the positive effects of the CCC move and opening of St. Joseph’s pharmacy school. Having UConn Greater Hartford students join their business school classmates will build on these successes.

      It’s true that housing’s the missing picture. Maybe UHart’s a good model to follow: they built a dorm downtown a few years ago. UConn could try the same thing. When you add up UConn 2000, 21st century UConn and the Jackson laboratory, we’re talking about upwards of $3 billion in investment over the past decade or two. For 10% of that figure, they could provide housing downtown for all UConn Hartford students and a good portion of the faculty and staff.

      1. mike

        Nice points.

        I find it interesting that people are incredulous about the cost of this move when UConn has literally spent billions expanding in Storrs, Waterbury, Storrs again, Stamford, East hartford(rentschler), and Storrs some more without a peep, but closing a decrepit campus to move downtown, ahem, back downtown is such a big deal.

        Further,
        The cost of maintenance of a swamp campus with multiple buildings is FAR greater than 200K SF of downtown office space.
        additionally the transportation and utility efficiencies are far superior in any city or even town center.

        lastly, this move will allow for the sale of 165 odd acres in what is considered a desirable town. While people have said that its swampy so it will be a challange to develop… Uconn would have faced that same challange.

        I suspect that West Hartford will find a developer willing to turn this land into housing with a nice park and return it to the tax rolls of West Hartford wile earning Uconn a pretty penny on the sale.

        so to think of that again… the sale of this property will help recoup costs of of the move.

        let the future developer pay for demolition and engineering around the redevelopment of the property.

        1. Phil

          Agreed Mike. The “cost” of this move is pretty much nothing. UCONN will save $25 million dollars in building renovations by moving the campus. Plus, that doesn’t even take into account the $? million they’ll get for the 58 acre WH campus. If anything the “cost” is actually one of the best parts of moving.

  3. BWP

    “4. Students like the West Hartford campus. It is easy to get to and there is plenty of safe parking available across the street. Even with a downtown parking garage, it is inevitable that a student taking night classes will be robbed (or worse) going to her car late at night.”

    Are you kidding??? I just graduated in May with a 2-year Masters Degree from the UCONN – West Hartford Campus. The campus is completely boring. It in inspires no social interactions… Yes, there is plenty of parking, but you have to walk all the way through enormous amounts of Goose Poo to get to the unsightly buildings. It is a sad, sad campus. An urban campus is not without its challenges, but I think in 10-15 years, the move will be hailed as a great change… those that gripe just want to stay with the commuter and West Hartford lifestyle. If you want that, go to St. Joes.

    1. JBA

      You’re right that in 10-15 years it’ll be seen as a smart move. Just look back at the decision to move the Stamford campus downtown in the mid 1990s, now considered a success.

      St. Joseph’s is smart to be in both locations, so students can go to their attractive West Hartford campus and to their modern downtown pharmacy school.

  4. Luke

    I was born in Hartford, raised my first 5 years, and lived there last year in downtown.

    It is not fear mongering. It is reality. That area is a dumpster fire, Alot of Hartford Riff Raff frequent to have fun or do whatever it is they do. If you check the papers, you will see a couple muggings a weekend, when was the last time you read about a mugging near the West Hartford campus? Until the police and the city’s citizens show they care about the city enough to protect it and help it grow, they don’t deserve to have UConn

    1. James

      That description might be true of some parts of the city, but as someone who has worked downtown for 5 years and lived here for the past year, I will tell you it is safe. As long as you follow the same rule here that you would in West Hartford or any town (don’t walk around by yourself at 2 a.m.), you will be fine.

      Thanks to research by William Lucy at the University of Virginia, we know that, in many metro areas across the country, city residents are actually safer than those who live in the outer suburbs because more of the exurban residents are killed in auto accidents than are people in cities (where speed limits are lower), with the difference enough to overwhelm any differences in violent crime, which has itself been declining over the past 20 years.

    2. mike

      Constitution plaza, muggings?

      I read all kinds of papers all the time and in the last 7 or so years the only thing I ever remember hearing or reading was after the PR day parade or West Indian parade(I honestly cannot remember but it was an event downtown attached to a specific culture and it was not pipes in the valley or the dragon boats..)
      but a person was running through the streets after the event broke up shooting a gun at someone else in the distance. It is my recollection that this took place between Main Street and Columbus and started down under the old clarion hotel that bridges Kinsley.
      No one was hurt and the shooter was arrested IIRC The only other one was a person mugged on Vhurch street near main when they approached a car and asked them if they were selling druhs after 2 AM yup, the guy even told police he was looking to buy drugs and got beat and robbed. Thats it for that part of town for 7 years.

      1. Luke

        Mike,

        I don’t know who you are, but there is no doubt in my mind you are an idiot. For you to actually believe that in the last 7 years there have been 2 incidents of violence downtown is mind boggling. Everyone in this chat is now dumber for having read your post. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

        1. mike

          A billy Maddison Reference… Nice, I will commend you for that. I will however also ask you to explain your own short term memory problems.

          “that area is a dumpster fire”
          those are your words. Now it may be my own fault for not understanding what you meant by “that Area” but in the context of the posts we were replying to and the article itself, the entirety of downtown is not what comes to mind. If you read what I wrote, it is clear that I interpreted your comment to be the area around Constitution Plaza. not sure how you missed that.
          for all of downtown there are often incidents near Union place and in general along the length of Allen Street. Specifically in addressing Uconn and their interest in 200 Constitution Plaza I did not thing that muggings or for that matter murders happening near Union Place were relevent. Just as I would suggest that Prostitution on Wethersfield Ave. and Gunshots on Barbour Street have little to do with the area immediately surrounding Constitution plaza. Heck, I didnt think the Church street mugging I had read about was relevent, but I added it to concede that there are isolated incidents of violence.

          Maybe you should Back to School
          Back to School
          To Prove To me That you’re Not A Fool
          with you’re Lunh Packed Up,
          you’re Boots Tied Tight,
          I Hope you Don’t Get In A Fight
          Ohhhh…
          Back To School
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          Back To School…

  5. Catspaw

    The key point, made by an active member of the staff or faculty, Ralph, is concerning. The Administration apparently made a presentation on the move and have yet to consult with their constituents, faculty, staff, students, public and other citizens. UCONN does not have a flawless planning or execution record on buildings or compensation policies.

    Great! Move to Hartford! But, will those decisions be made above board? Considering the move will require tax payer investment isn’t that the least the citizen might expect?

  6. Luke

    James,

    These are college kids, not only would the city love for them to stay and spend money during the day, the city would love to have them live there and go out at night. My point is, look at Hartford’s track record in terms of safety and compare it for example, to West Hartford Center. There is no comparison. Or just ask yourself one question: If you lived in California and your daughter was attending UConn, would you rather her have to commute and study around Hartford, or West Hartford?

    1. James

      Luke,

      If UConn were moving to a bad section of the city, I would be concerned, but it’s moving downtown. To be honest, I think they should be careful to locate in downtown proper, and not a nearby but less safe section just to get cheap square footage. But as long as they’re north of Capitol Avenue, south of I-84, east of Bushnell Park, and west of the river, the location is an opportunity. It’s not just the restaurants and cultural stuff, but also the corporate internships and contacts with state government that add value to the location.

      1. James

        Sadly, the point I made about auto fatalities versus street crime is something we can all probably relate to. Since I graduated from college, I can think of four incidents in which college friends or their family members have been hurt or killed in car crashes. None have reported a single instance of street violence, and most of my friends live in cities. Each reader can do this accounting for themselves, and determine whether they should feel safer on a city street or behind the wheel.

    2. mike

      If I lived in CA and my daughter attended UConn she would be in Storrs.

      If the choice is between West hartford and Hartford as cities… as a whole West Hartford wins.

      If its a Question of the West hartford campus and a new Downtown Campus, I’d likely vote for Downtown because if I were a parent and i toured that W Hart campus I’d ask for my money back. conversely Id be thrilled with St Joes Pharm school (as its the only real downtown campus we have to go by right now) and the apartments on Temple where many of the students live.

      and FYI not everything in life is a conspiracy theory.

  7. dave

    I attended UConn in West Hartford. Its best asset was it was close to the bars, restaurants and museums in Hartford. Being downtown would have been a thousand times more interesting than being on Trout Brook road. I envy the students that will get a chance to be a part of the city.

  8. Rising Star

    My undergraduate classes were at the UConn WH campus – it was ok. The buildings are older and are quickly moving past their prime, the goose poo isn’t very attractive and the walk across campus from the parking lots can be a nuisance after escaping the gridlock from Htfd on I-84 to school.

    A downtown Hartford campus would be great in my opinion, especially if the money spent were offset by the sale of a wonderful WH location…yes, it is a wonderful location. But the infrastructure leaves you wanting with classrooms too hot or either too cold and again, past their prime.

    Downtown Htfd can, is and will be a great place to relocate the school and I certainly predict that in the future after its completion – it will be trumpeted as a welcome and successful move.

    1. James

      Thank you to UConn Greater Hartford students, who are most familiar with the benefits and drawbacks of the current location, for sharing your perspective. A common theme in your posts is that the West Hartford campus is perfectly nice, but a downtown location will bring with it newer facilities and convenient access to amenities that are popular with many students. Meanwhile, the move will be far from a loss to West Hartford, which is doing quite well and will be able to make productive use of the existing campus.

  9. Luke

    James,

    Your note on traffic fatalities is questionable and quite frankly not related to the topic being discussed.
    With that said, street violence is a reality whether you choose to believe it or not. I went to high school with someone who died a couple years ago after being shot outside a nightclub in Downtown. Also, Hartford has a significant gang population. There is an ongoing drug/turf war going on. Although much of the war is going on in other parts of the city, only a fool would believe this type of violence has not affected the downtown/metro area.

    You have a good point about downtown having potential for contacts in internships for corporations/governments. I think in a perfect world UConn would be great for Hartford and vice versa. I’m just not sure Hartford is ready or deserving yet.

    1. James

      Luke, the research on traffic fatalities has been published for your review. You can make of it what you want, but it is quite germane to this discussion. Although West Hartford is not an outer suburb, people who live far from the city and might be prone to make snap judgments about whether to attend school or send their children there should be aware of the bigger picture.

      Twenty years ago Hartford was not ready for a new campus. Currently, it is, as St. Joseph University, UConn’s business and law schools, the University of Hartford and Capital Community College can attest, alongside the 35,000+ people who work here everyday and 1,800 people who live here.

      1. James

        (The population figures are for downtown only). Across most US cities, downtown populations have surged over the past decade even as city-wide populations have generally declined. As Jane Jacobs elegantly observed, the highest quality urban environments are those that achieve high levels of density and share a variety of uses, two characteristics that are especially well represented in downtowns. Other parts of the city can certainly be attractive, but the point is that downtown holds particular promise as a target of mixed use activity, to which a university will contribute and from which it will benefit in especially large measure.

    2. mike

      Luke, I understand your concern with street crime, but I think the context you have with it is the disconnect.

      The classmate that died after being shot was shot near Union place or The Mansion nightclub. I know this because The bars in that part of town are the only ones that have violence like this in all of downtown. Most of the time the violence id directed at people who fight at the club and are settled in the parking lot. I think the only major exception is when a gunman sprayed a pizza place near Union Place because of a club based beef and hit several people other than his intended target. A waiter just off of his shift was killed in that shooting as he went for an after work snack. That was tragic and I would agree, cause for concern. It was however an absolute rarity. Most of the time the victims of violent crime are known by their assailant. Uconn Students already frequent the part of downtown where past violence has occured, and they are just as likely to be vistims as they are walking through the woods in Storrs, or crossing the road in Storrs after a night o drinking.

      Is Hartford less safe than West Hartford, Yess, but downtown as a whole is generally a very safe place, and investing in our cities will help to strengthen the region and state. This campul relocation will be part of the solution to making Hartford a safer and more enjoyable place to live and work.

      The best crime prevention in the world is “Eyes on the street”

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  13. Jimmy Boggs

    This seemingly arbitrary decision to move the campus is on the short side of stupid. The West Hartford campus offers an expanse of green conducive for outside study in fair whether. The location is close to I-84 both east and west. There remains plenty of parking and the parking situation alone should be the game changer. No crime. No burglaries.(Just wait until the cars are broken in to.)

    The current environment is conducive to thoughtful study. If the building need major reconstruction or indeed replacement, they may also need this in the downtown area which makes it a zero sum gain.

    Sometime people advocate for change for its own sake. The unmitigated waste of public funds shows that we haven’t learned to control wasteful spending in a still slow economy. This is not an example of smart stimulas spending. It reminds me of a certain bus lane to nowhere.

    1. Phil

      The new campus will be right near Bushnell Park probably so plenty of space to get outside to study.

      The WH campus is actually not really close at all to 84(almost 10 minutes) and almost double to 91. Hartford would only be a couple of minutes to 84 or 91 depending on where exactly it’s located.

      I’m sure the school will have either free or some sort of parking arrangement made for students. Also, there really aren’t any car robberies downtown. I park downtown many times at night when i go to the gym or out to dinner and have never seen, heard of any issues or have felt unsafe.(FYI I’m a suburbanite)

      Speaking of the busway(which I wasn’t a fan of), this would put the school right near it’s route and since this is a commuter school, would give students without a car a way to get to campus they currently don’t have. Also it would help with ridership & revenue for the busway.

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