Moving UConn’s regional campus in West Hartford to a new home in downtown Hartford took a major step forward today, as University, State, and city officials put pen to paper agreeing on a $4 million plan to renovate and lease space at the Hartford Public Library on Main Street.
The agreement is an important milestone that adds momentum toward the creation of UConn Hartford, the new urban neighborhood campus now under development on and around the former Hartford Times newspaper building on Prospect Street.
The $4 million agreement with the public library is contained in the overall $140 million budget designated for the downtown campus, where construction is underway to restore the historic Times building’s façade and build a five-story classroom addition.
UConn had originally envisioned a 220,000 square foot structure on the Times site, but has downsized that to 140,000 square feet of classroom and office space, plus 20,000 square feet of retail space.
To make up for the smaller size, the University began looking to share space with surrounding public and private organizations in nearby buildings, promoting the idea of a dynamic urban campus with increased foot traffic among structures within walking distance of each other.
Subsequently, last year UConn purchased for another $4 million a building at 38 Prospect Street for classrooms and offices, and is currently negotiating with the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art for the use of its auditorium, with an agreement expected later this spring. Meanwhile, the Capital Region Development Authority has agreed to provide access to 2,000 parking spaces, but no more than 850 at peak parking times. Students would park at the convention center, while faculty would park at the convention center, science center, and a garage on Front Street.
Recognizing the opportunity afforded by the Hartford Public Library’s location diagonally across Prospect Street from the Times’ building site, UConn successfully negotiated with library officials to use space within their building for classrooms, a library collection, and study areas. Under the agreement, 4,300 square feet will be renovated primarily for use by the library, including one 36-seat classroom and a 40-seat computer lab.
UConn would occupy about 12,000 square feet of out of a total of 132,000 square feet, mostly on the ground level and main floors of the library. Although the areas will be branded with UConn logos, they will be open to the library and the community when not in use for university purposes. Those areas will include three 48-seat classrooms, a digital media center, and spaces for tutoring services, private study lounges, and storage for collections.
The agreement with the library gained approval from the library’s board and the Hartford City Council last month.
Hartford Public Library officials hope that sharing their building may create the opportunity for future collaborations with the University.
Renovations at the library are expected to begin next spring and be ready in time for the opening of the campus in fall 2017. When UConn Hartford opens its doors, it expects to accommodate 2,300 students and 300 faculty.