Image courtesy of AI Engineers Inc.
Architectural rendering of AI Tech Center (Image courtesy of AI Engineers Inc. )

The new owner of the old WFSB Broadcast House at Constitution Plaza envisions turning Hartford’s gateway to the east into a 12-story, $40 million “world-class tech center.”

Abul A. Islam, president and CEO of AI Engineers, Inc., bought the property back in July for $2 million and plans on making it into an office building with a small amount of retail space.

“When people come over the Founders Bridge they need something that makes a statement. The great Connecticut Science Center already does that and this will compliment and make that statement a louder statement,” Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez said Wednesday at a press conference to unveil the building plans.

“This is a catalyst for investment. More importantly, this is an issue of confidence,” Perez said.

Christine Stuart photo
Abul Islam of AI Engineers and Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez (Christine Stuart photo)

Despite the recession, Islam said he is optimistic his building, which was designed by Tecton Architects, will succeed.

“We would love to have state funding, but this project is not contingent on that,” Islam said.

Islam said he was especially proud that he has proposed making it a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED building, a certification administered by the US Green Building Council.

Daniel Whittenmore, associate vice president of AI Engineers, Inc., said that means it will be an energy efficient building using solar panels on the roof, fuel cell technology, and a water recovery system. And when demolition of the old broadcast house starts in February all the old building materials, like the copper pipes will be recycled for reuse, he said.

“This building is going to have technology in it that is going to be unmatched in commercial real estate anywhere in the city or really anywhere in the state,” Whittenmore said.

“Our vision is to create a world-class tech center and to challenge technology oriented businesses to establish a presence and motivate students in high school to adopt engineering, science, and technology as a career of choice,” Islam said.

Aside from 14,000 square-feet of leasable office space the building will also include a 2,500 square-foot auditorium, 9,000 square-feet of retail space, enclosed bike lockers and showers for bicycle commuters, 49,500 square-feet of parking, and a roof top garden.

“We’re going to create a place people are going to want to be,” Whittenmore said.

If all goes as planned Islam and AI Engineering may be moving into the building sometime in the fall of 2010. Islam’s mid-sized engineering firm which specializes in road, bridge, and building design would move its headquarters from Middletown to Hartford. AI Engineering would occupy about 30,000 of the more than 200,000 square-foot building.

And while the commercial real estate market may not be doing as well in other parts of the city, Peter Donohue General Manager of Capitol Properties, the company which manages Constitution Plaza said its vacancy rate is about 13 percent. He said occupancy has been increasing to the point where there are no vacancies at One Constitution Plaza and very few in the other buildings on the plaza.