Gov. Dannel P. Malloy today proposed a new public authority to broadly coordinate development in the Hartford region, the latest in a string of initiatives to be trumpeted in his upcoming State of the State Address.
Accompanied by regional officials, Malloy outlined plans for a 13-member Capital Region Development Authority that would replace an agency founded by former Gov. John G. Rowland, the Capital City Economic Development Authority.
Say goodbye to CCEDA, the agency Rowland created in 1998, and hello to CRDA.
Malloy said the new authority would have a broader focus than the big-ticket projects favored by Rowland, who dubbed his effort the “Pillars of Progress.” They included a new convention center, downtown housing, redevelopment of the Civic Center and construction of Rentschler Field in East Hartford.
“Our approach will not be top down,” Malloy said. “I won’t tell you what the pillars are. The community will tell us what the pillars are.”
The effort grows from a commitment Malloy made to Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra to focus resources on Hartford in his second year as governor. It also is prompted by the looming expiration of the state’s agreement governing the XL Center, the downtown arena formerly known as the Hartford Civic Center.
“I’ve made it very clear: I can’t imagine the city or region without an XL Center,” Malloy said.
The facility is owned by the city and leased to the Connecticut Development Authority, but the agreement expires in August 2013. Malloy said the city and state need to devise a new operating structure and a modernization plan.
He all but ruled out construction of a new arena to replace XL as too expensive, and he waved off the inevitable question about whether Connecticut is trying to produce a facility that could interest a National Hockey League franchise.
Improvements to XL are not tied to the NHL, he said.
“It’s too speculative,” Malloy said.
XL is now home to the minor-league hockey team, the Connecticut Whale, and it plays host to a share of home games for the University of Connecticut’s basketball teams. Rentschler is home to UConn football.
Malloy said he would like to see use of the facilities increase, but it was unclear if he would push UConn to move more games downtown from Gampel Pavilion in Storrs. Starting a varsity hockey program at UConn seems unlikely.
Paul F. Pendergast, the UConn athletic director, said he often is asked about introducing varsity hockey in a region with a vibrant hockey conference, Hockey East. Boston University and Boston College are recent national champions.
But he said chances of introducing hockey are “remote,” given the cost and the issues of gender equity if the university wanted to launch only a new men’s team.
Malloy said the new authority, whose members would include representatives of his administration and the governments of Hartford and East Hartford, would try to better coordinate the use of existing facilities, such as XL, the Connecticut Convention Center and Rentschler.
“Currently we operate facilities as though they are competitors of one another, and I want that to end,” Malloy said. “This needs to be a unified effort, particularly if we are going to make an investment in the XL Center. So this is a very different approach.”
Malloy is slowly laying out his agenda for the legislative session that opens Feb. 8 with his annual State of the State Address. So far, it includes education reform, an overhaul of liquor and election laws and regional development.
“Obviously, there is a calendar, and there is an ebb and flow in business,” Malloy said. “And things get busy around here the closer we get to a legislative session.”