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"College Park" Downtown Hartford

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Vision For Downtown Hartford Includes A Place For College Life

November 29, 2003

By MIKE SWIFT, Courant Staff Writer

Bob Painter stood on the deck over I-84 in downtown Hartford one recent afternoon, looking over the sweeping parking lots to the north, as the rumble of highway traffic poured through the trench beneath his feet.

Painter, a retired surgeon turned Republican city council member, calls I-84 "the slash." Forty years after it was built, the interstate highway marks a still-raw racial and social fissure between downtown's office towers and the poorest neighborhood in America's second-poorest city.

"We build so many barriers," said Painter. "This was a neighborhood, and no one foresaw the damage the highway would do."

Now Painter and other city officials hope to heal that damage while also bringing life - in the form of college students - to the city center. For nearly two years, Painter has been quietly working on a plan to transform vacant land north of downtown into a "College Park," a shared campus where students from Capital Community College, the University of Connecticut and other schools could learn, and perhaps live, together.

With area colleges expressing definite, though still undefined, interest, Painter's idea may be moving toward reality. The city is expecting to receive proposals Monday from developers on how they would finance and build a university campus on the 11-acre site on downtown's northern fringe.

The area has been targeted for big development projects for more than a decade. At various times during the 1990s, city or state officials wanted to use the site for a convention center, a new arena to keep the Hartford Whalers in town, a minor league baseball park or - during the city's periodic, futile flirtations with the NFL - a football stadium.

Painter believes none of those massive projects would have done what College Park could do for the city.

"It's a way to knit the Clay-Arsenal neighborhood back to the downtown," he said.

A conceptual design for College Park completed this year by planners Ken Greenberg, Patrick Pinnell and others calls for using two existing schools -Capital Community College in the newly renovated G. Fox building on Main Street, and Rensselaer at Hartford on Windsor Street - as the "bookends" for College Park.

The campus would straddle I-84, filling the "V" created by Main Street and Windsor Street north of downtown. There would be new buildings for academic space, and perhaps for dormitories and retail space. A new "Winthrop Green" would create an aisle of open space through the campus into the heart of downtown. An "entrepreneurial center," where students could follow the process of taking new medical technology to market, is possible. City officials hope to get state or federal highway money to rebuild Main Street, from I-84 north to just above its intersection with Albany Avenue, into a tree-lined boulevard.

"Instead of it being on the wrong side of the tracks, it will be on the right side of the tracks," Harry Freeman, Hartford's economic development director, said on a recent visit to the parking lots that now dominate the College Park site. "We want to get [a developer] on board who will work with us to make it financially viable."

The project has the backing of Mayor Eddie A. Perez, who recently traveled with Painter to Troy, N.Y., to get backing from the president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to link Rensselaer's Hartford facility to the project.

Financing remains a big question mark. One concept is to have a developer own the campus privately and lease space for classrooms, research facilities, dorms, retail space, or administrative offices.

Local schools are interested in the shared campus idea, although the details of their involvement remain hazy. UConn, for example, is interested in offering urban studies and social work courses in an urban setting.

"We definitely see ourselves offering courses at the College Park because it's just a natural," said David W. Williams, director of UConn's Greater Hartford campus. "It's almost like hands and gloves when you talk about the urban studies program."

Rensselaer, which despite a drop in enrollment is considering launching courses for its first full-time students, is interested in student housing that it could rent or lease - and a better connection to downtown Hartford.

"In a way we're very close" to downtown, said Alan Eckbreth, the dean of Rensselaer at Hartford. "In a way, we're very far away. [The campus] would tie us in much more closely. I think it would be great."

Capital Community College, which moved to the G. Fox building last year, has seen enrollment grow by 25 percent to about 3,500 students over the last three to four years, said Ira Rubenzahl, Capital's president.

"We obviously are interested in more space for the college and also in supporting development of that property," Rubenzahl said.

One possibility for Capital's expansion into the College Park campus is a planned effort with Hartford public schools to build a regional magnet school to focus on social justice issues, such as the history of the civil rights movement.

Administrators with the University of Hartford, Trinity College and St. Joseph College in West Hartford also have helped shape the College Park idea.

Some local administrators say a downtown location would give students better access to internships and other clinical placements that are a key part of a modern college curriculum.

"Back when I went to school, they put colleges out in the boondocks," said Clark Hendley, vice president for academic affairs at St. Joseph. "The idea was you went off to college. But today that's almost a mark against a school, that you're off by yourself. We're giving our students real-world experience."

St. Joseph is interested, for example, in strengthening its ties with Capital Community College in nursing and teacher preparation, something Hendley said could happen at College Park.

The University of Hartford is willing to discuss having its architecture or urban design classes taught or based at the downtown campus, but President Walter Harrison said it was too soon to make any kind of commitment.

"I think [College Park] is an interesting idea," Harrison said. "It's a little less obvious to me what the direct participation of the University of Hartford would be."

There already is a play to bring more college students into downtown Hartford, through the $45 million reconstruction of the old Sage-Allen building. The project will include housing for about 170 students from the University of Hartford, St. Joseph and other area schools.

Painter, who has spent the past two years shopping the College Park idea to everyone from Gov. John G. Rowland to neighborhood leaders in Clay-Arsenal, hopes to use College Park as a jumping-off point for planning a better city.

Perhaps, he said, Hartford should put a government center near the College Park, clearing space in the 1915 Beaux Arts city hall building for an expansion of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. Painter contacted the Greater Hartford YMCA, which is looking to revamp its downtown facilities, about building a large new gym and fitness complex on the deck over I-84, providing a key activity center at College Park. The Y was not enthusiastic, Painter acknowledged.

Still, "this is a place just begging for creativity," said Painter, a member of the first successful U.S. heart transplant team and the former chief of surgery at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center.

Another idea floated during the 1990s, having UConn move its West Hartford campus to downtown Hartford, resurfaced this year as officials met to work on the College Park plan.

"That question was asked, and the response to that was no," said Williams, the UConn administrator. "We will remain here in West Hartford, but we will participate" in a downtown Hartford campus.

Whatever form it takes, Painter said, College Park could energize Hartford in the same way that Boston University, the University of Pennsylvania and Yale University energize Boston, Philadelphia and New Haven.

"Any major city that's successful has a university downtown," Painter said. "What would Boston be without the kids?"

College%20Park.gif

From The Hartford Courant

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Hartford's highways form a ring that is so small it's like a moat around the city. Building on vacant lots will help, but I think they are going to have to tear down/move some freeways to really give Hartford a chance. Annexing some of the surrounding rich burbs would help, but I don't see that happening politically.

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This type of disconnect between neighborhoods and DT would have been even worse in Boston had the inner-belt expressway been completed.

I think this is a great idea. Too bad some of the larger schools aren't biting right away.

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Road placement and the designing of roads/ highways is not a specialty of Hartford. The intersections of I-84 and I-91 are extremly helpful for travelers but do they need to intersect in Downtown Hartford? One highway for people actually going into the city and then a beltway for other travelers would have been a better idea.

Currently though as the article disscusses there are extreme differances between what lays on both sides of I-84. One side has the thriving central business district while the other side is the North End. An intersting thing thing though is once your cross I-84 from the central business district the North End does not really start for about 1 block. Right by the highway there is a vacant Board of Education building, a historical home which is sometimes open for tours, and numerous vacant lots, some of which serve as parking lots for people who work in the city. Another idea for this area was to relocate the police station to the area. Also a little bit down but still on the same side as these vacant lots is the 12B parcel which is prime vacant development space which the local CBS affiliate looked at to build there new headquarters on but it was to small a space.

And just to note: Even the North End of Hartford is notorious for violent crime there are many other cities that have much worser neighborhoods/sections then Hartford's North End but because the city of Hartford is small in size it is extremly hard to seperate bad areas from good areas. The north end is also home to thousands of people, along with many businesses and schools.

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If this will bring students downtown and help reconnect the city, then it would be a great project, regardless of cost.

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It would be a great project but currently I beleive it's a long shot wish list idea. Currently one of the projects slated for the loads of vacant property opposite the Central Business District and I-84 is to relocate the Public Safety Complex from the North Meadows to the area near the old Board of Education Building on High Street across from Ann Street. Currently the building is vacant, there is one home that the city has JUST bought, one building that is occupied that the city may take by eminent domain, a city owned parking lot, vacant privatly owned properties, and highly used parking lots.

A little bit over is the 12B parcel which WFSB and ING turned down which means WFSB is moving to Rocky Hill and ING may relocate over the river to a new building in East Hartford.

The area is currently a very barren area that is only home to the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Rensselear Technical Institute, and Bank of America. The area sits between the Central Business district and the North End and North Meadows which is home to the Dodge Music Theater (formely Meadows Music Theater) and dozens of car dealerships.

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They should move this idea to Constitution Plaza and build some residential/office space in that other area....

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So I am bringing this back to the top. mainly because its the closest I can find to a proper thread for a downtown college/university.

MadVlad has written about Constitution college and many have commented about it, but always in random threads about other subjects.

I Want to talk about the same or simular thing and make this a little more of a one stop location for developing college presence in the cities downtown. either as constitution college or as part of an "uptown" redevopment.

For right now I was thinking about whats missing in Greater Hartford. This is usually how I get ideas, because anything that is missing is something that could "easily" improve the region.

What is missing, and not just in Hartford is a proper science and engineering school.

The schools I am thinking about are MIT, WPI, RPI, RIT,Clarkson U.

Hartford has a satalite branch of RPI, an Albany based School. It owns 15 acres of land and 1 building uptown. The programs offered by this satalite follow

The student enrollment at Rensselaer Hartford Graduate Center was 730 in 2007

Plans of Study

(for students admitted beginning Fall 2007)

(for students admitted prior to Fall 2007)

Uconn offers many simular programs as well.

With RPI having only masters level programs and Uconn being a broad based university and not a science and engineering school, and with Hartford the base of so many engineering jobs, to me it makes sense that something could happen to solve a few weaknesses.

The RPI campus could partner with UHart, Trinity and St Josephs to offer them undergrad BS/BE programs. The RPI campus would gain control over the other half of the block bound by Main, Pleasant, Windsor, Trumbull. This block would be developed with dorm(s) and a new academic building.

Companies like Pratt form strategic alliances with universities all the time, and In the case of RPI Hartford, UTC could be pivitol in backing the expansion of this campus into a full blown college or university.

The kinds programs I see being most important to in the area are as follows

Environmental Engineering

Aeronautics and Astronautics

Architecture

Biological Engineering

Genetic Engineering

Chemical Engineering

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Engineering Systems Division

Health Sciences and Technology

Materials Science and Engineering

Mechanical Engineering

Nuclear Science and Engineering

Physics

Urban Studies and Planning

Now, Honestly this would be industry driven.

whatever majors support the things being done at UTC Power, GE and Danbury based Fuel Cell Energy INC. would be ideal and hugely supported.

Pratt, Kahman, Hamilton, etc would support Aeronautical engineering programs.

General Dynamics and GE support Nuclear Engineering and Physycs programs.

I know this is some pretty vague stuff, but RPI Hartford bothers me for its lack of something. its like a dead spot, mind you in a dead area. I would like to see RPI help spin off its satalite school and help improve its programs. mind you still keep some affiliations, but as it is its more of a continuing education program than an engineering school.

I think that juicing this campus up is more viable than a constitution college. I think the area needs a school to support green technology that would lead to spin off companies in the area.

blah

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Here is what I tried to accomplish with the idea of Constitution College: create an environment downtown that has 24 hour life replacing one that has 9 hours of life. Constitution Plaza has been considered a white elephant for years, having never added the housing that was supposed to be the key to the whole thing. The plaza itself is an optimal setting for college life. The area is desolate unless something specific is going on, and that's with it directly adjacent to the new Convention Center, and the river. Redo the Clarion into dorms, change the rest of the buildings into either classrooms or dorms, and possibly take over other vacant space in the immediate area (BoA building, the Phoenix bdg if the fold, etc). All that dormant retail under the Morgan St garage? Filled. State House Square food court? Open till midnight. Build a premiere building at Main/Asylum/Pratt. All the retail on Pratt? Filled. Jojo's? Hot college chicks falling out of their tops all the time ;) Plenty of space for people to just hang, it is a plaza, after all.

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Here is what I tried to accomplish with the idea of Constitution College: create an environment downtown that has 24 hour life replacing one that has 9 hours of life. Constitution Plaza has been considered a white elephant for years, having never added the housing that was supposed to be the key to the whole thing. The plaza itself is an optimal setting for college life. The area is desolate unless something specific is going on, and that's with it directly adjacent to the new Convention Center, and the river. Redo the Clarion into dorms, change the rest of the buildings into either classrooms or dorms, and possibly take over other vacant space in the immediate area (BoA building, the Phoenix bdg if the fold, etc). All that dormant retail under the Morgan St garage? Filled. State House Square food court? Open till midnight. Build a premiere building at Main/Asylum/Pratt. All the retail on Pratt? Filled. Jojo's? Hot college chicks falling out of their tops all the time ;) Plenty of space for people to just hang, it is a plaza, after all.

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According to the cities tax map, constitution plaza provides a pretty significant ammount of tax revenue

0001 Constitution Plaza

0010 Constitution Plaza

0100 Constitution Plaza

total assessed value 37,366,140

0003 Constitution Plaza

assessed value 2,330,846

0005 Constitution Plaza Broadcast house

assessed value 5,086,088

0200 Constitution Plaza

assessed value 7,539,530

total assessed value of the plaza is 52,322,604

The total tax bill at 78 mills comes to about $4,081,163

so about $3,684,448.14 excluding the AI Engineers building.

For the city to forfeit 3.68Million in tax revenues would be a big deal.

my thought is that we need to bring the land that is on the tax roles to higher uses, and we need to "get more out of" the land that is not on the tax roles. Obviously it would be great to get more city and state owned land back onto the tax roles as well, but

Rensselaer currently ownes

0271 Windsor $798,640 1.14 acres

0273 Windsor $606,030 .866 acres

0275 Windsor $24,558,070 10.79 acres

I want to give them

1214 Main street, 2.9 acres

valued at 2,011,600.

This is city owned land so it would not affect the cities tax rolls at all.

This would however give the school the entire block made up of

0271 Windsor 1.14 acres

0273 Windsor .866 acres

1214 Main 2.9 acres

4.906 acres in total could easily hold 2 dormotorys, and 2 academic buildings leaving a large "quad" in the middle.

from this begining, the school could redevelop the current campus as demands arise. If for some reason this school does exceptinally there is a great deal of land that could be acquired near by.

the Travelers data center across the street comes to mind. 8.27 acres.

RPI campus has so much more potential than the plaza in part because it has room for some additional expansion. The plaza, although just about right for a urban outpost campus for a larger university, has limitations as its own college.

NYU works in Manhattans Greenwich village because it is a large school, and it dominates washington square park.

other urban schools like Colombia, Fordham, Yale, Boston University, U of Toronto, MIT, University of ILL at Chicago etc, all have campuses. These campuses are not just a collection of office buildings and apartment towers. these campuses are much like traditional suburban, or rural campuses, just more tightly packed.

Since Trinity is content in maintaining its size, and UHart is too far from the city center, it either falls on RPI or the creation of Constitution college. I just see RPI as less disruptive (tax wise) and also having the higest potential.

The Constitution plaza idea to mee serves better as an urban outpost campus for UConn.

SUNY Stonybrook (I went there) on Long Island is comperable to Uconn is almost every way besides sports. Stony Brook has a NYC campus however.

http://www.stonybrook.edu/sb/nyc/facilities.shtml

This kind of urban outpost might be a little small or too small to make a real difference in Hartford, but if Uconn were to make a larger presence and of course dorms, we would be onto something. Since this did not happen while Uconn spend billions on infrastructure over the last few years, I am guessing its not even on their map.

Who wouldnt want a Mini MIT on the Northern edge of Downtown?, and at no cost to the tax base.

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According to the cities tax map, constitution plaza provides a pretty significant ammount of tax revenue

0001 Constitution Plaza

0010 Constitution Plaza

0100 Constitution Plaza

total assessed value 37,366,140

0003 Constitution Plaza

assessed value 2,330,846

0005 Constitution Plaza Broadcast house

assessed value 5,086,088

0200 Constitution Plaza

assessed value 7,539,530

total assessed value of the plaza is 52,322,604

The total tax bill at 78 mills comes to about $4,081,163

so about $3,684,448.14 excluding the AI Engineers building.

For the city to forfeit 3.68Million in tax revenues would be a big deal.

my thought is that we need to bring the land that is on the tax roles to higher uses, and we need to "get more out of" the land that is not on the tax roles. Obviously it would be great to get more city and state owned land back onto the tax roles as well, but

Rensselaer currently ownes

0271 Windsor $798,640 1.14 acres

0273 Windsor $606,030 .866 acres

0275 Windsor $24,558,070 10.79 acres

I want to give them

1214 Main street, 2.9 acres

valued at 2,011,600.

This is city owned land so it would not affect the cities tax rolls at all.

This would however give the school the entire block made up of

0271 Windsor 1.14 acres

0273 Windsor .866 acres

1214 Main 2.9 acres

4.906 acres in total could easily hold 2 dormotorys, and 2 academic buildings leaving a large "quad" in the middle.

from this begining, the school could redevelop the current campus as demands arise. If for some reason this school does exceptinally there is a great deal of land that could be acquired near by.

the Travelers data center across the street comes to mind. 8.27 acres.

RPI campus has so much more potential than the plaza in part because it has room for some additional expansion. The plaza, although just about right for a urban outpost campus for a larger university, has limitations as its own college.

NYU works in Manhattans Greenwich village because it is a large school, and it dominates washington square park.

other urban schools like Colombia, Fordham, Yale, Boston University, U of Toronto, MIT, University of ILL at Chicago etc, all have campuses. These campuses are not just a collection of office buildings and apartment towers. these campuses are much like traditional suburban, or rural campuses, just more tightly packed.

Since Trinity is content in maintaining its size, and UHart is too far from the city center, it either falls on RPI or the creation of Constitution college. I just see RPI as less disruptive (tax wise) and also having the higest potential.

The Constitution plaza idea to mee serves better as an urban outpost campus for UConn.

SUNY Stonybrook (I went there) on Long Island is comperable to Uconn is almost every way besides sports. Stony Brook has a NYC campus however.

http://www.stonybrook.edu/sb/nyc/facilities.shtml

This kind of urban outpost might be a little small or too small to make a real difference in Hartford, but if Uconn were to make a larger presence and of course dorms, we would be onto something. Since this did not happen while Uconn spend billions on infrastructure over the last few years, I am guessing its not even on their map.

Who wouldnt want a Mini MIT on the Northern edge of Downtown?, and at no cost to the tax base.

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I think this is one of your best ideas. Heck, nearby Keney Tower even looks like it belongs on a college campus. That area would be perfect for a college. Image a well attended college campus just north of downtown. It could be a big thing for the city.

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Eddie Perez was asleep at the switch again, failing to realize the potential of Goodwin College and letting them set up shop in East Hartford with a peep. With Cap Community in G. Fox and Rensselaer College just north of the Holiday Inn, the Goodwin would have really made a big impact in the area.

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Eddie Perez was asleep at the switch again, failing to realize the potential of Goodwin College and letting them set up shop in East Hartford with a peep. With Cap Community in G. Fox and Rensselaer College just north of the Holiday Inn, the Goodwin would have really made a big impact in the area.

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I do not think there is ANYTHING Hartford could have done that would match what East Hartford and its stakeholders did for Goodwin.

Their property is MASSIVE, its Waterfront, its better than anything available in Hartford. there are no tex incentoves that would sway that school.

Also, Pratt gave a lot of land, land it does not own in Hartford to Goodwin.

I think we should just be happy that Goodwin is doing well, and its future is even brighter. We will have to accept that the schools bebefit will be less direct than indirect on downtown Hartford. The region however will benefit more due to the new campus and higher potential and any other "option"

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