HARTFORD, CT — “UConn Nation” was on full display Wednesday as hundreds of Husky fans swarmed Prospect Street to witness the unveiling of their downtown Hartford campus at the site of the former Hartford Times building.
“This is the most historic day in the 136-year-old history of the University of Connecticut,” UConn President Susan Herbst said as the crowd cheered. “UConn has come to Hartford.”
She said the fact that the school would be located at the nearly century-old former newspaper building just gave it more significance, noting that four different Presidents had given speeches from the very stage from which she, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, and other luminaries were speaking to the boisterous crowd.
The campus, which was relocated from West Hartford, consists of the renovated and expanded historic former newspaper building, additional classroom and office space at nearby 38 Prospect Street, and shared space in the Hartford Public Library.
More than 3,300 students are enrolled in classes for the fall semester at the Hartford campus, which will also be home to more than 200 full and part-time faculty and staff.
Herbst predicted that the students and faculty “will bring great energy to downtown Hartford.”
Malloy, to whom speaker after speaker gave credit for making the vision of a UConn campus in downtown Hartford happen, called Wednesday a “great day for Connecticut, a great day for the University of Connecticut, and particularly a great day for Hartford.”
Noting that the state’s capital city, according to some, is teetering on bankruptcy, Malloy said that the UConn campus is an important milestone.
“We’ve turned our back on our urban areas,” the governor said, stating that Connecticut was behind other states in recognizing the importance of investing in big cities.
“When our cities are thriving, our state will thrive,” Malloy said.
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin called the campus is “not just a victory for Hartford but a victory for our entire state.”
“We can turn this great city into a greater place,” Bronin added, adding that the influx of students, faculty and staff will help revitalize not only the UConn-Hartford campus area but also surrounding businesses, such as restaurants and theaters.
Both U.S. senators, Chris Murphy, a UConn Law School graduate, and Richard Blumenthal, were at the ceremony.
Murphy told the crowd that between his wife and himself they had three different UConn degrees. Of the Hartford campus, he said, “As a member of the UConn family, I am so proud.”
And Blumenthal found it symbolic the campus was the site of an old newspaper plant.
He didn’t mention President Donald Trump’s relationship with the news media by name, but he did state he thought it was important that the newspaper facade was such a significant part of the campus edifice “concerning the troubled seas we see right now.”
The campus will include a new, attached-five story building while retaining the facade of the nearly 100-year-old Hartford Times structure.
The move returns UConn to its roots in Hartford, where it had been located from its opening in 1939 until it moved in 1970 to West Hartford.
In keeping with the neighborhood campus concept, the building will have an exterior courtyard open daily to the public, and retail stores on three sides of the building to encourage public visits.
In all, the campus will comprise about 217,000 square feet between the Times anchor building, a nearby building that UConn is purchasing at 38 Prospect St., and space in other nearby buildings in partnership with those neighboring entities.
UConn’s nearby Graduate Business Learning Center also will be consolidated with the other programs at the new campus, including the Department of Public Policy and School of Social Work. The University also will add a master’s degree in engineering at the campus, along with expanded public policy, urban studies, and education programs.
Parking for UConn employees and students will be available at nearby garages. UConn-Hartford will have its own CTtransit stop at campus, and, on Aug. 13, a bus started running hourly between the main campus in Storrs and downtown Hartford.
One of the UConn Hartford students checking out the campus was 18-year-old Kirill O’Neil, a freshman from South Windsor.
He was touring the campus with his father and both said they were “really impressed” with what they had seen so far.
O’Neil said he believes the campus “will bring a lot of attention to Hartford and the community as a whole.” He said he was looking forward to spending time walking around and getting to know the neighborhoods around the campus better.
One of those who really enjoyed the ceremony was George Bragdon, of Scotland, CT.
Bragdon said his father was a former reporter at the Hartford Times, “back in the 60s.”
Looking up the facade, Bragdon said: “I love history. And the newspaper was such a big part of Hartford’s history. It just brings back so many memories,” Bragdon said, as he wiped tears away from his face.
“My dad would have loved this.”