News that the University of Connecticut planned to relocate from West Hartford to Hartford was released in Nov. 2012, with the projected $25 million cost of upgrades to the campus at the corner of Asylum Ave. and Trout Brook Drive, as well as a desire to have more of a downtown presence for UConn, cited as major reasons.
At the time, UConn had not specified an exact location in Hartford, but the former Travelers Education Center at 200 Constitution Plaza had seemed to be a leading candidate, especially after an architect was hired for a pre-design study. On Wednesday, the Hartford Business Journal reported significant problems with that site, including space constraints and the presence of asbestos, raising questions about the next step.
Some of those questions were answered on Thursday, when UConn released information about a "Request for Expressions of Interest to Provide Property in Downtown Hartford," indicating that the university is still looking for suitable sites in Hartford as part of the process. An ad about the plans will be placed in next Monday's edition of the Hartford Business Journal.
Responses to the Request, which specifies space requirements of 150,000 square feet, along with parking for approximately 850 during the day and 800 during evening hours, are due on Feb. 27. The area must also be accessible to public transportation.
The University of Connecticut's goal is to be able to accommodate everything downtown that is currently housed in West Hartford, other than the branch of the Connecticut Cooperative Extension System. The Graduate Business Learning Center, which is already located in Hartford, may also be included according to the Request.
Minimum enrollment at a downtown Hartford site is estimated at 3,100 students (day and evening) and approximately 300 faculty and staff (day and evening).
"Nothing is off the table – we're continuing to keep options open for consideration," said University of Connecticut Spokesperson Stephanie Reitz when asked if this means that 200 Constitution Plaza is no longer being considered. She said that the review just completed of that site was part of "appropriate due diligence."
Reitz said UConn does not yet have a specific timetable, and the university "did not announce the move" in November.
"The idea was discussed with employees at the Greater Hartford campus and word of the plans circulated to the media. UConn has responded in a way that balances the desire for transparency against the provisions under state law that protect the confidentiality of real estate negotiations," she said.
Reitz said the that University of Connecticut still plans to sell the West Hartford campus, and expanding the search for suitable downtown properties is not an indication that the university has decided against the move.
"At this point, UConn is committed to moving its Greater Hartford operations to downtown Hartford. The University believes it can best fulfill its mission and meet the needs of students, the downtown area and the state by taking that step. While we wouldn’t unilaterally rule out any options – including the option to remain in the current site – our efforts are focused at this point on identifying an appropriate downtown location," said Reitz.
UConn's Greater Hartford campus was located in Hartford from 1939 to 1970 when it moved to West Hartford.
The campus currently serves approximately 2,100 students on the 58-acre site. There are five buildings, encompassing approximately 164,000 square feet, and 60 faculty members are employed there. In addition to the educational facilities, the UConn property is also the site of several town athletic fields, including the Miracle League baseball field.
According to UConn's website, the campus offers undergraduate programs in American Studies, Business and Technology, Human Development and Family Studies, Psychology, and Urban and Community Studies, as well as a "Master of Education with Teacher Certification" program.
The University of Connecticut has determined that several of these programs would receive significant benefit from being located in an urban environment.