200 Constitution Plaza Update

February 19, 2015

Dear Trinity Faculty, Staff, and Students,

I am writing to update you regarding the College’s acquisition of 200 Constitution Plaza in downtown Hartford.  As you may recall, we learned of the opportunity to purchase the building just a few days before the beginning of the bidding period.  With the hard work and diligence of many parties on campus as well as the Board of Trustees, we marshaled our intellectual and financial resources and were able to put together timely bids and ultimately the successful bid. 

The building has 135,000 square feet of programmable space and is strategically located, allowing for a rich diversity of academic, extracurricular, and community programing activities that will enhance the educational experience at Trinity and add to the vibrancy of the city.  We now need a strong planning process that will assist us as we moved forward.  I invite you to participate in the planning process for determining how the space should be utilized. 

It is important that any planning process be led in an objective and professional manner.  In order to meet this goal, I have secured the services of two experienced individuals with backgrounds in urban and institutional planning in higher education settings.

Rachel G. Bratt is a Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning (Emerita) from Tufts University, and Catherine Donaher is an accomplished consultant in real estate development and master planning. Their bios can be found at: http://commons.trincoll.edu/comment/bratt/ and http://commons.trincoll.edu/comment/donaher/. Their collective role is to help Trinity develop an open, inclusive, and transparent process and program for occupying the building.  Professor Bratt and Ms. Donaher have had a preliminary discussion with members of my senior administrative team to develop an initial understanding of how the building fits into the overall vision and mission of the College, to explore possible uses of the building by Trinity, and, most importantly, to explore ways to engage the Trinity and Hartford communities in setting a course for incorporating this new resource into our long-range planning.   

As we begin this process, there are several thoughts to keep in mind:

First, we should view 200 Constitution Plaza as much more than a downtown building; rather, we must envision this building as a strong complement to our main campus location.  In a very real sense, this new space will enhance the overall educational experience at Trinity by expanding our programming opportunities and providing an additional focal point for further integration with the Hartford community.  The building is in excellent overall condition (it was used as a training center for Travelers Insurance Company) and is configured with a variety of classroom and offices spaces that are consistent with our educational mission.

Second, we see a new downtown campus as having the potential of further strengthening Trinity’s already significant commitment and investment in the Hartford community, while also providing ample space for innovative projects and ideas to flourish.  While we have made no decisions about which existing or new Trinity programs might be located in the new space, I am encouraged by the exciting ideas and proposals that some of you already have sent to my office. The community planning process that we are now launching will help us clarify how we can best incorporate this new resource into our teaching, research, and learning, and enhance our role and presence in the city.

Third, because Trinity will not be able to use all of the space in the building for the foreseeable future, we will consider leasing portions of the building to interested businesses and organizations with a preference to those whose use of the building is consistent with our educational mission, thereby enabling the building to generate self-sustaining income.

Finally, we continue to be convinced that the purchase of 200 Constitution Plaza represents a sound and fiscally prudent business opportunity.  The investment activity in downtown Hartford is impressive and all signs are pointing to a resurgence of this area as a significant new educational, residential, and commercial center.

In addition to contracting the services of our outside consultants, I have asked Paul Mutone, Vice President for Finance and Operations and Treasurer, to be project manager.  Paul, along with several trustees, will take primary responsibility for developing the building infrastructure.  I also have asked Chief of Staff Jason Rojas and Associate Professor of Political Science Stefanie Chambers to serve as liaisons to our various on-campus and off-campus constituencies, as we move forward with our planning.

On March 6, Professor Bratt and Ms. Donaher will hold two open forums with faculty and staff in the Washington Room.  The first forum will take place from 10:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m., followed by another session from noon to 1:15 p.m.

A student forum will be held in late March or early April, giving us time to plan and allowing us to avoid the time constraints that come with spring break.  We also have launched an online forum to enable all members of the Trinity community to provide thoughts and feedback about Trinity downtown.  We welcome your ideas and comments, and you can offer them here:  http://commons.trincoll.edu/comment/200-constitution-plaza.  

I look forward to your involvement in the process of incorporating 200 Constitution Plaza into the future of Trinity.  Later in the semester, I will be back in touch with you to provide details on how this multi-constituency planning process will proceed, but we will begin with the open forums described here.

I hope you share my excitement about the prospects this new venture holds for our College.

Sincerely,

Joanne Berger-Sweeney
President and Trinity College
   Professor of Neuroscience