May 13, 2015
Since beginning our work in February we have engaged the Trinity Community in A dialogue about how we might best use 200 Constitution Plaza. More than 100 of you have participated in the conversation online and in public forum events on campus. Our consultants have prepared a report that highlights the many ideas shared during these open forums along with their own evaluation of the space.
Final Report on Constitution Plaza
February 19, 2015
Join us in identifying the best ways to utilize Trinity’s new space at 200 Constitution Plaza in downtown Hartford. We invite you to share your ideas here, along with your name and Trinity affiliation (faculty, staff, student, alum, etc.). Thank you for your participation.
The Hartford Public Schools have been promised state funding to find a permanent home for the Moylan Montessori Magnet School, currently located right in our neighborhood. They have explored the possibility of relocating to West Hartford, which our own director of urban educational initiatives (a Hartford Board of Education member) has criticized. This could be an opportunity to keep one of the city’s great schools in Hartford, strengthen our relationship with the city, and invite a very suitable tenant to 200 Constitution Plaza. Here is more information on the possible relocation:
My biggest concern with the property is accessibility to the site for Trinity students, the impact this may have on their scheduling and the limitation it may place on the number of classes they can effectively take. The new building is a long walk from campus. Even with free shuttles running, especially in winter such as now when there are small mountains of snow on the roads, the time that would have to be allocated for transit back and forth to classes on campus puts a physical limitation on the number of classes students can effectively take. Other than shuttles, what measures have been considered or implemented to maximize the value of the new center to students while minimizing that burdens?
Trinity should sell this building with all due haste. Owning it will end in a financial fiasco. Just ask Conn College how successful it was after it bought a downtown building with little a priori planning. Just because an “interesting” building is for sale does not mean that the college (Triinity, Conn, etc.) suddenly needs a downtown presence.
I think the following academic programs might be a natural fit for the downtown campus:
American Studies, Public Policy, Art History, Urban Studies, Political Science and perhaps History. If there is a Magnet School on site that ends up leasing some of the space (as someone suggested above), then Educational Studies might also make sense. It might also make sense to house the graduate programs there depending on the demographics of the graduate programs. Obviously transportation, parking, and the availability of services (food, library access, etc.) are issues that will have to be solved if the downtown campus is to meet its potential. The UCONN Hartford campus is under development in downtown and I think it only makes sense to try and develop some synergies there.
What a surprise! Not living in the Hartford area, I was unaware of this new investment. Checking the Hartford Courant of December 3, 2014, I read that Trinity had submitted the winning bid of 2.025 million dollars in a three-day online auction after the building had been on the market for two years. I think it would have been helpful for the President to have noted this in her letter yesterday. A map showing the building’s location in relation to Trinity would have been useful as well. As a concerned alumnus, I urge the administration to be open and forthright in reporting on the critical stages of planning and development for this project throughout the process. That process could be daunting: the Courant story also noted that the building had been vacant since 2011 and experienced foreclosure a year later.
1) Move most of Career Counseling downtown where Trinity’s staff can directly connect with the major Hartford employers. As long as there is a good shuttle system, this would have the added benefit of getting more students downtown.
2) Evaluate which current courses might appeal to Hartford’s downtown employee base. Test a program where evening classes are held downtown (and online) and are open to local professionals.
3) Alternatively, host guest lectures and conferences on business topics that can/should be informed by liberal arts thinking. Jointly host with the media as much as possible. (Colin McEnroe usually has a Trinity professor on his NPR show so he might be a good partner; or a local business TV show).
4) Begin a mentoring program between Trinity students and the high schools from the North End to reprise the success of the programs closer to campus.
FYI, there is a good discussion on this subject on the Trinity alumni LinkedIn page.
Some wonderful and inciteful comments left so far. I do think 200 constitution Plazza can be an asset both for Trinity and the community. While I was at Trinity (64) we attempted to mentor and tutor local high school students at a nearby high school in the evenings. This was soon ended when a motorcycle gang greeted us threatening to beat us with chains (which they had with them) if we returned. This type of activity would be far less likely to happen in such a public business location. So I would endorse the idea of assisting high school students at this location with the possibility of bringing them on campus during the summer (perhaps junior year) for “the college experience”. This would provide for a nice avenue of communication between the college and the nearby community.
As far removed in time and space from the Trinity campus as I am, it is honor to be invited to participate in this dialogue. Re. the previous comments to date and others that might follow, I would advise to think outside the box. For example, distance and transportation from the main campus are assumed to be issues only in relationship to the existing student body. Programs at 200 Constitution Plaza will, by location, attract different populations which first should be identified and then surveyed or consulted through focus groups, etc. Current students and recent alumni, particularly those working in Hartford, should be encouraged to participate in these sessions. Also critical to the success of this development is to reach out to other institutions which might be serving the populations identified and to collaborate where feasible. I root for your success !
I am enthused by this acquisition. Opportunities for community service and civic relationship building abound. Expansion of Trinity’s contributions to the enrichment of Hartford could be enhanced by this.
I was unaware that Trinity was aquiring this property in downtown Hartford. I hope that it will be an asset rather than a liability. Not being familiar with the layout of the property, I wonder if there are any spaces that would be available for small concerts or recitals for a viable fee. Being a member of a small chorus in Norfolk, VA , Schola Cantorum of Virginia http://www.scholacantorumofva.org , we find it hard to find a small venue other than a church in which to perform.
While not sold on the overall strategic fit or investment priority, given the current ranking issues Trinity is struggling with, I think this does present an opportunity for Trinity to strengthen it’s ties to the business community. Right now, there are a lot of liberal arts folks moving into the corporate world without a ton of real world business knowledge. Similarly, Hartford has a lot of innovative thinkers without the infrastructure to support their entrepreneurial aspirations (so they are fleeing to Boston or NYC). I would propose combining these two elements, using much of the space as an incubator hub (giving or leasing at a massive discount to entrepreneurs and startups). I would have a practical economics/business curriculum taught out of the same building (with a strong liberal arts bent) and would have a element to these classes around supporting the startups. Would be a great way to strengthen business incubation in Hartford and give students a head start in business.
Dear Trinity College committee:
Please consider using the new 200 Constitution Plaza acquisition as an Astronomy Observatory to add prestige to Trinity College, add value to the city of Hartford, Connecticut, and put Trinity College on par with Caltech, MIT, Yale, Oxford, Cambridge, and other prestigious colleges and universities throughout the World.
Yusef Rashid DeLaine ’97
In scanning the comments that have already been posted, I didn’t see anything about using part of this space for housing. While most Trinity students would likely prefer to live on campus, some might prefer a more urban experience. Although the building is currently configured more for offices and classrooms, I think it would be interesting to consider reconfiguring part of the space for living quarters. The natural candidates for living in the space would be students that are majoring in whichever academic programs’ classes end up being held in the building.
Another thought. Whatever is done with the space, I think part of it should be dedicated to income production. Renting it out to start-ups or other small businesses would not only bring in much-needed income, but also enhance Trinity’s reputation for entrepreneurship.
I think the classroom space can be used to create classroom settings in which Trinity student engage the Hartford community in the classroom. Right now, there’s a dichotomy classroom is only for Trinity students, while “community engagement” takes place outside the classroom. I’m thinking of something like a “Brick and Mortar MOOC.” MOOCs are open and free but, problematically, a “broadcast” form of education–professionals in elite institutions sending out ideas. It would be awesome to have a class–maybe just called “Hartford”?–that would attract students from Trinity but also Capital Community College, UHart, St. Joe’s, UConn-Hartford, plus the wider public (parents, retirees, politicians, etc.). What would it mean to have a class in which students engaged with the community in a classroom setting. This would create an awesome mixer and grinder, and unique curricular possibilities not available at other institutions.
One idea for use of the space is a music recording studio and rehearsal space for local teenagers and Trinity students. It could facilitate educational experiences across several areas: social, psychological, cultural, language, computer and management as well as musical skills. See a high school orchestra playing with a rapper on http://jdillafoundation.org/. The J Dilla Foundation provides support for such ventures.
When not in use the facility could be rented out to pay for itself.
Hopefully this acquisition will prove useful functionally and as an investment. Seeing the comments on the transport issue, one suggestion would be to focus graduate-level classes (obviously those that do not require campus facilities such as science labs) as these students generally come to Trinity from work and are not resident on campus. The College should attempt to fully exploit work-education synergies when seeking corporate or other tenants for the areas to be leased out. Congratulations to Trinity’s leaders for showing leadership and vision in this addition to the College.
As a Trinity professor I think it is crazy to consider this space for classrooms or departmental offices. How could our students take a class there and get back in time for their next class on campus? How could a professor have a downtown office and expect students to show up for office hours? While I am happy to help students elsewhere, my first commitment is to Trinity students.
But we could use the space for things not so linked into a school day. For example, we have been complaining that we have inadequate art space. How wonderful it would be to have a space where we can offer art, accessible to the broader Hartford community! We might also consider a performance space. Trinity (used to) bring fabulous musical and theatrical events from outside the college that drew the community in, as well as Trinity folks. We could use some of the downtown space to reinvigorate such programs. And so on. We should ask what can link us to Hartford residents in a more meaningful and rich way.
When planning the use of this facility, parking must be considered. I have long felt that a significant part of the customer base loss by the major downtown stores to the malls was attributable to expensive versus free parking, and that much less of this business would have been lost if the city and downtown business community had followed the malls’ model of including the cost of providing parking in property leases rather than making potential purchasers pay for the “privilege” of patronizing city businesses. Had they been sufficiently foresighted to do so, I might still be able to enjoy shopping at G. Fox, BT’s, and Sage Allen, grabbing a bite at one of the nearby eateries and seeing a movie at one of the Main Street theaters. The garage beneath it provides convenient access to the building, but will high parking fees keep people away from it?
There may be benefit to Trinity owning this downtown building. My suspicion, however, is that it is another piece of social engineering fostered by the administration that will not actually directly contribute to the quality of a Trinity education, but will, like all real estate constructed in recent years, contribute directly to our dangerously high tuition that very few can afford. While parents are trying desperately to teach their children financial responsibility, colleges and universities like Trinity are doing their best to demonstrate how to be financially irresponsible. The result, as we see, is a huge tuition debt problem that will have to be forgiven by the federal government, causing another drain on the economy, similar to the housing bubble we have just suffered through. President Berger-Sweeney needs to concentrate on the quality of education provided by the faculty, not social engineering in downtown Hartford.
I suggest that you consider conducting classes in Math and Economics there where students would be employed one day a week as interns in insurance companies, banking, accounting companies, etc.
I believe these companies would be happy to work this out with Trinity.
This plan works successfully for the Jesuit Christo Re high schools across the country.
Some of these companies may want to lease space at 200 Constitution Plaza not being used by Trinity.
There is a wonderful service learning organization here in Philadelphia called Need In Deed (www.needindeed.org). Students in public schools in grades mostly 4-8, guided by teachers who have been trained in service learning by NID, pick topics they want to study for the semester (child abuse, littering, drug use, hazing, teen pregnancy) and then tailor their studies (math, English, History, etc.) to this topic. A presentation is made at the end of the semester. Each class has a community partner–a business or organization–that contributes time, resources or other support to the project. 200 CP could be a resource center for similar school projects in the Hartford area, either as a community partner itself, overseen by some part of the Education Department, or as a conduit/middle-perspon between the schools and the community partners.
I am a parent of three Trinity girls and have been in the field of long term care for 25 years. One of the most popular projects in the senior care sector is creating senior housing connected to a college campus. This building, ideally located in a downtown area with all services nearby, could allocate 50K square feet for an upscale retirement community for Trinity (or other college) alums. They can take advantage of all the college has to offer – including auditing courses and use of facilities -while become more involved in charitable support of the College. Happy to discuss in more detail if you are interested.
Using the space for something like an innovation lab could be an interesting opportunity. It could be open to Trinity students as well as other creators looking for a space to try out and refine their ideas. The downtown Hartford location would be a great connection between the students and businesses.
I would like to see at least some of the space used for an “incubator space”, where academicians and entrepreneurs can collaborate on innovative ideas using shared resources. Using this space a student’s idea can turn into a start-up business. Researchers can form think tanks. Partnerships between schools, businesses and /or government can pilot non-profit programs. Small projects and businesses can overcome startup obstacles by sharing resources such as a computer network, email, phones, conference rooms, and copiers. Usage-based pricing can allow these services to paid for like a utility – without a large up-front investment. When a fledgling business grows large enough to afford an office of its own, it moves out of the incubator space making room for one or two more. Even space for 10-15 people may allow 5 to 10 projects to co-exist, innovate together, and seed the future of our community.
A school of insurance or risk management would be intriguing given the close proximity to several top property & casualty and health insurers in the downtown area, potentially creating opportunities for internships and permanent jobs for those students. Hartford has been known for its history in revolutionizing modern day insurance and it is only fitting that Trinity College takes a part in building the future of this industry, which is in need of new young talent. I would gladly discuss my ideas further with anyone interested, being a Trinity alum, insurance professional and Hartford, CT native myself.
I’m a bit familiar with this plaza as I worked at the Greater Hartford CofC at 250 Constitution Plaza in 1978. The idea of an incubator is a good one, and there are many examples, including one at my other alma mater, Fordham. It could be made available to other colleges as well as non-profits. One area of interest to me is the synergies between science and art and this location is perfect for that, within an easy walk to not only the Science Center but the Wadsworth Atheneum. I’d love to co-teach at a class on the site featuring popular science such as we read so enthusiastically in Scientific American each month. Currently I teach the required course in college writing and research at Charter Oak State College, Connecticut’s online college, recently turning 40 years young. Faculty and alumni need to be involved for this building to realize some potential. Hartford is on an noticeable upswing, fortunately. So is online learning (our enrollments are up 38%).
I am absolutely thrilled that Trinity is investing in Hartford and making a visible, powerful move to connect Trinity students to downtown Hartford. I have lived in downtown Hartford and it has a vibrant and growing arts scene, an outstanding public library, great food, and many appealing attractions. I see that some folks are concerned about the distance between Trinity proper and downtown. Seems to me that is an easy enough distance to negotiate. I just got back from Atlanta and I think the distance, end-to-end, from one side of the ATL airport to the other is bigger than the distance from Trin to downtown. Felt like it, anyway.
A possible solution to student and faculty transportation to and from the downtown campus would be to increase access from the main campus to the fastrak station, I believe the closest station is in Parkville. The could be done with better walking a biking accessibility and or in conjunction with a shuttle. Doing so would introduce students not only to the downtown campus but encourage students to explore the city more widely via the fastrak. It would be less expensive than running a shuttle all the way downtown and students already receive free public transportation cards.
I propose that the new building at 200 Constitution Plaza live up to its prestigious address and become the Trinity College Center for the Study of the Constitution (or the Trinity College Center for Constitutional Law), thus raising the profile and reputation of the college.
Connecticut is the “Constitution State,” referring either to the Fundamental Orders of 1638–39 or the “Great Compromise” (“Connecticut Compromise”) of the 1787 Constitutional Convention, a pivotal plan that combined the Virginia and New Jersey plans to form a bicameral legislature, copied by most states since the adoption of the Federal Constitution.
The Constitutional Center, or Institute, would function as an addition to the college’s history/ political science/law curricula, and would complete the college’s efforts in recent years to forge stronger ties with the City of Hartford, as well as with the Constitution State itself.
Set up like a research-oriented “think tank” — featuring college and graduate courses in its classrooms, academic and legal discussion panels in its conference center, and films and multimedia exhibits in its amphitheater — the center and its library would attract visiting scholars, lawyers, politicians, students, and citizens to its many important public events.
Thus, the center would act as magnet in raising the profile and reputation of Trinity College, now known as a “very good college,” but with this new addition becoming “a great college.”
Overall, I have been finding the reports about uses, planning, and hard ideas for the building lacking. They all seem to regurgitate a comments from the constituents involved. This is important to gather, but it is unclear who is the filter, and who the decision maker.
As a leader in a decent sized business in Hartford, I can confirm there are many difficulties with ‘community’ relationships downtown. We work in an environment where we are all fending for ourselves, and not working together to make it a better place. We have budget issues that send our leaders off on tangents to tax our service businesses to a point which may almost violate interstate commerce ethics, and at least make many leave the state (luckily, it did not pass.. again). We are not good at providing jobs in state; as we all too often pass over highly qualified businesses for those out of state to complete work. As an Alumni, I’d like to see some focus on uses that help us all work together. Trinity as community.