UConn’s Herbst Sees Hartford Campus Beyond Times Building

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The University of Connecticut expects the old Hartford Times building will be the cornerstone of its downtown Hartford campus but the university isn’t stopping there.

UConn President Susan Herbst told me today that the university has approached the Wadsworth Atheneum, the Hartford Public Library, the Convention Center and other venues about how it might share space with the university.

University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst. Photo by John Woike/jwoike@courant.com

University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst. Photo by John Woike/jwoike@courant.com

“There could be a lecture at Infinity Hall. The Science Center has labs.” Herbst said. “These are the kinds of things we are thinking about.”

Herbst comments came after her keynote speech at Friday’s CBRE/NE’s annual commercial real estate market outlook in downtown Hartford.

UConn has selected the Times building as its preferred site for the campus. Greenwich-based HB Nitkin Group has launched studies and designs that would lead to the redevelopment of the Times building into a college campus of up to 220,000 square feet. Nitkin has the development rights for the Front Street district, including the Times building.

The work is expected to be completed by mid-March. A final development agreement needs approval from the UConn board of trustees.

Herbst said UConn is committed to establishing the campus in downtown Hartford, But the university also does not want to overbuild in its renovation of the 1920s Times building if nearby space already available.

Long vacant Hartford Times building at Front Street has been picked by the University of Connecticut as the "preferred site" for relocating  its West Hartford campus. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com

Long vacant Hartford Times building at Front Street has been picked by the University of Connecticut as the “preferred site” for relocating its West Hartford campus. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com

The Infinity Hall space in the Front Street entertainment district just to east is one example. The space won’t be used before 3 p.m., Herbst said.

“You could have ‘Intro to American Politics’ there at 9,” Herbst said.

Incorporating other locations into the downtown campus will achieve another objective: getting students out of the building and walking around.

“The last thing we want is some kind of self-contained academic vault with a population that never ventures outside the walls, except to arrive in the morning and leave in the evening,” Herbst told those gathered at the market outlook conference.

She added, “We want students integrated into the neighborhood and part of street traffic.”

Herbst told me she is encouraged by the construction of new apartments in downtown Hartford. She hopes they will provide housing for students.

 

 

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