The front entrance to the University of Connecticut's new downtown campus now under construction is tied to the past with the façade restoration of the iconic Hartford Times building standing as a reminder of the city's heyday.
But step inside and it's all about the future. An atrium soaring three stories dominates the new structure rising just east of city hall in a corner of the emerging Front Street district. The atrium, now roughed out in steel and concrete, will be lined on three sides by more than two dozen classrooms when the campus welcomes nearly 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students next fall.
During a tour of the project last Thursday, Robert Corbett, UConn's director of regional projects and development, explained that each of the three entrances to the building will open into the atrium, and there will be overlooks on the second and third floors.
"It is the centerpiece in that we wanted a space that would serve as the focal point of the whole campus," Corbett said. "We are having classes and faculty and staff in multiple locations in the neighborhood. We wanted to have at least one location which we deemed as the center of the campus."The campus, which is being moved from West Hartford, also will include leased space for a library and classrooms in the Hartford Public Library, and classroom and office space at 38 Prospect St., both a short distance away. The nearby Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art has been mentioned as a potential location for classes.
City and state officials see the campus as adding a new vibrancy to downtown, as students move among classes in the different buildings. But they also view it as key in connecting the recently developed Front Street entertainment district and apartments to the rest of downtown.
The cost for the $140 million campus has doubled from the initial estimates in 2013. UConn said the majority of the increase in the final budget was connected with renovating the Hartford Times facade and the 30 feet of building behind it, mostly stabilizing it once the back half of the building was torn down.
The shape of the new building also has changed since 2013. UConn initially envisioned a structure with 220,000 square feet of classroom and office space. The university cut that to 160,000 square feet, plus 19,000 square feet of retail space, to reduce its height, making it fit better into the surrounding neighborhood.The structure now under construction features a variety of building heights. The Times facade is four stories, the atrium is three and the portion near the main entrance off Front Street is five. A courtyard will be planted with grass and trees and is designed to be used as a public space.
The classroom space will include an entire floor designated for science, including laboratories for chemistry, physics and biology. Faculty offices will be on the fourth and fifth floors and in the space incorporated from the Times building.
UConn expects 1,400 undergraduates and 500 graduate students to take classes in the building. It is possible that undergraduates could pursue their first two years in Hartford before having to take courses in Storrs. The faculty and staff is expected to number about 350.
"Ideally, students at Storrs will be attracted to this downtown campus and to cross register and take courses," said Nina Heller, interim director of the campus and dean of UConn's School of Social Work. She accompanied Corbett on the tour along with Nadine Brennan, the associate director of the new campus. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
Public to get update on Wakelee Avenue reconstruction during information meeting in Ansonia
ANSONIA >> Residents and business owners are invited to attend a public information meeting Wednesday to get an update on a proposed $3.5 million project to reconstruct Wakelee Avenue. The meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. at the ARMS Building, 22 West Main St. “The mayor wanted to have this meeting, but we are also required by the state to hold a public meeting on the Wakelee Avenue project since state and federal funds are being used,” said Economic Development Director Sheila O’Malley. “The meeting will be to discuss the design, the timeline and the overall project for the reconstruction.” Mayor David Cassetti and city officials held a press conference in April 2015 to announce the “Wake Up Wakelee” initiative, geared to give the problem-plagued road a much-needed facelift.
The one-mile stretch of Wakelee Avenue due for a major upgrade is home to about 50 businesses. The heavily traveled road has been neglected over the years, with pavement in poor condition, sidewalks in disrepair and lack of adequate drainage, Cassetti has said.
O’Malley helped the city secure $3.5 million in grant funding from the state Department of Transportation, with Ansonia slated to kick in a local match of 10 percent to cover the project design and engineering fees. O’Malley said VHB, a large engineering firm out of Wethersfield, with offices all over the country, is designing plans for the Wakelee Avenue makeover, which is about “90 percent complete.” “The design is nearly complete,” O’Malley added. “It’s a large project that has to follow state and federal regulations…and everything needs to be approved by the state (before construction can start).” O’Malley had said the major reconstruction of the city-owned road has been a long time coming, and advertisement improvements haven’t happened there for at least two decades. She is hopeful the makeover will serve as a catalyst for more new businesses to come to town. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE