Facing an estimated $25 million in renovations to its Greater Hartford branch in West Hartford, UConn plans to move the campus to downtown Hartford within a year, bringing along 2,100 students and 60 faculty members.
UConn President Susan Herbst said in a statement Thursday that "moving the Greater Hartford Campus back to the city, where it began and belongs, will better enable the campus to fulfill its academic mission, provide a major boost for downtown Hartford and save the university millions in the process."
The university is not revealing a new location for the campus because negotiations are underway.
Herbst said that "ensuring that UConn is fully contributing to the life of our capital city is one of my highest priorities. ... The campus was originally intended to offer an urban education near the seat of state government and there is no better place to accomplish that than in the heart of downtown. This will be a win-win for UConn, our students and the City of Hartford."
The university plans to move into an existing downtown facility and will sell the 58-acre regional campus off Trout Brook Drive. UConn's School of Social Work, also on the campus, will be part of the move.
The move will add to the burgeoning number of students in downtown with Capital Community College in the old G. Fox building, along with nearby graduate programs run by UConn and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the arrival last year of the University of St. Joseph School of Pharmacy.
"This is great news. Bringing UConn back to downtown Hartford is a great step forward in the effort to revitalize our capital city,'' said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who has led efforts to harness the state's universities to boost the economy.
In Hartford, the decision was met with applause. Mayor Pedro Segarra said in a statement, "Since I took office in 2010, I have actively and consistently engaged UConn to have a bigger footprint in the capital city."
The move will significantly boost vitality downtown, encourage life in the evening hours at bars and restaurants and build on the arts and entertainment scene, said Michael Freimuth, executive director of the Capital Region Development Authority. It could also create new demand for downtown housing.
"It's a big to-do," Freimuth said. "Any city that can activate itself with a college student population offers opportunity for everyone else."
The university originally opened a campus in Hartford in 1939, moving to different locations around the city over the years. In 1970, it closed the city campus and moved to West Hartford.
The decision to move back to Hartford was prompted by a review of the aging West Hartford campus that showed it would cost nearly $25 million to repair and restore the deteriorated buildings and campus. In the past four years, the university has spent $7.2 million on repairs at the West Hartford campus.
Three locations have emerged as leading contenders for the new campus: the former Travelers Education Center on Constitution Plaza; the two-towered Connecticut River Plaza; and One Talcott Plaza on Talcott Street. All three locations are within a block of a UConn graduate business program.
The vacant Traveler's Education Center encompasses 135,000 square feet and has been for sale or lease for about a year. The building is outfitted with classrooms and meeting space.
The 575,000-square-foot Connecticut River Plaza on nearby Columbus Boulevard has been under consideration by the state as a leading location to consolidate state workers in other leased office space, according to real estate sources.
The smaller, 103,000-square-foot building on Talcott Street near the G. Fox building has long been vacant.
"We're obviously sorry to see them go,'' said West Hartford Mayor Scott Slifka. "Now we're hoping to work with the school in the transition to make sure that whatever goes in that space next is appropriate for the town and the neighborhood."
Slifka said the University of St. Joseph and the University of Hartford have both expressed interest in UConn's West Hartford property, but he said those talks are in the early stages.
The site, which is on a wetland and in a flood plain, will likely need to remain a school, Slifka said.
UConn Greater Hartford Branch Leaving West Hartford For Location In Downtown Hartford
We've upgraded our reader commenting system. Learn more about the new features.
The Baltimore Sun encourages civil dialogue related to our stories; you must register and log-in to our site in order to participate. We reserve the right to remove any user and to delete comments that violate our Terms of Service. By commenting, you agree to these terms. Please flag inappropriate comments.