Plans to move the University of Connecticut’s satellite campus in West Hartford to downtown Hartford were finalized Tuesday by the Board of Trustees after 18 months of negotiations.
University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst estimated that the Hartford campus would cost about $115 million, but she warned that the figure was just an early estimate.
The project, which uses the facade of the old Hartford Times building, will be developed by HB Nitkin Group, along with the Capital Region Development Authority, and the state Office of Policy and Management.
“I think it was wrong that UConn didn’t have a major campus in downtown Hartford. It was a mistake,” Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Tuesday at a ceremony formalizing the plans. “That mistake is being corrected thanks to the leadership of President Herbst and the Board of the University.”
UConn Board of Trustees Chairman Larry McHugh said the idea to expand to downtown Hartford was hatched at a lunch more than a year ago at the Hartford Club.
A block down the street from the old Hartford Times building where the new campus will be located, McHugh sat down to lunch with Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, Hartford Council Chairman Shawn Wooden, and Adam Cloud to discuss the university’s move into Hartford.
Herbst said the move returns UConn to its urban roots where it had been located in 1939 until its move to West Hartford in 1970.
“Its original mission was to provide an urban education setting for our students, and for the city,” Herbst said.
The new Hartford campus will open in 2017.
“We plan on growing and we plan on being a huge economic contributor to the city of Hartford,” McHugh said.
However, this project wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for Malloy, he added.
McHugh, who has been appointed to chair the UConn Board of Trustees by five governors, said, “no one has been more committed to higher education than Governor Malloy.”
Former Speaker of the House Tom Ritter, who is also vice chairman of the UConn Board of Trustees, said getting the college to downtown Hartford has been a goal of his for many years. He said that in the late 1990s he was able to help get UConn’s Stamford campus moved to their downtown within a year. He joked that it took a former Stamford mayor to finally give Hartford it’s downtown campus.
He said it will be great for students with all the surrounding amenities downtown, but it will also be great for Connecticut’s workforce.
Ritter told Herbst that she’ll be proud of the buildings and even prouder of the people who build them.
“We will be doing job training for city residents,” Ritter said, referring to the jobs funnel program that trains Hartford residents for the construction trades. University officials said the goal is to award 30 percent of the construction jobs to Hartford residents.
An estimated 2,300 students and about 250 faculty members are expected to fill the classroom spaces in the new building and leased space the university hopes to find at nearby venues like the Wadsworth Atheneum and other locations.
The University of Connecticut Business School has space in Constitution Plaza, which is a few blocks from the new location.