University of Connecticut officials took a major step Tuesday toward relocating the school’s West Hartford branch to downtown Hartford, approving and signing documents to anchor the new campus in the former Hartford Times building.
The Board of Trustees unanimously approved a resolution to relocate the campus – tentatively set for fall of 2017 – as well as a parking agreement with the Capital Region Development Authority and a development plan with the H.B. Nitkin Group.
The latter is the Greenwich-based real estate firm that holds development rights to the Times building, and will develop the new, $115 million Hartford campus for UConn.
University, state and city officials hailed the return of the branch to Hartford during a mid-day press conference at City Hall – just across from the Times building.
“After months of preliminary work, due diligence and planning, the vision for a UConn campus in downtown Hartford can now become a reality,” said UConn President Susan Herbst. “Its original mission was to provide an urban educational setting for our students, and for the city – and it soon will again.”
Though the move is a plus for students, Herbst and others said it is equally beneficial for the city and the region. Job training and other economic development initiatives will bolster the community’s economy, as will a huge influx of visitors studying and working daily on the new campus.
“The presence of 2,500 students, faculty and staff in the heart of the city’s economic engine will generate an infusion of activity that will directly benefit our city and state for years to come,” said Hartford Mayor Pedro E. Segarra.
Herbst said other university programs would work in conjunction with local social services and schools.
“We’re committed to make this work for everybody,” said former state House Speaker Tom Ritter of Hartford, now vice chairman of the UConn trustees, recalling how negotiations to return to the capital city had bogged down in late 1990s.
Opened in downtown Hartford in 1939, the university’s capital region branch would move to other locations before setting in West Hartford in 1970, where it has been since.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who attended Tuesday’s event, said it was a mistake to remove the branch from Hartford, adding that past governors and legislatures dragged their heels when they should have restored the city campus more than a decade ago.
“Frankly, it was talked about for too long,” he said.
Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman said the new campus also would complement other steps the administration and Connecticut’s flagship university have taken together to bolster both higher education and the economy.
The governor launched a major bioscience initiative at the UConn Health Center in Farmington. And last year Malloy secured legislature approval for a major expansion of engineering and technology programs on the main campus in Storrs.
“Finally UConn is coming to be the economic driver in Connecticut,” he said.