While sharing the ideas and components of the public input process for The Hartford this week, consultants also emphasized that looking into the building's “re-use” is a multi-faceted process.
Earlier this year, The Hartford announced it planned to sell
the building and transition its remaining employees there to other
locations over approximately two years.
CBRE/New England (CBRE/NE) is currently marketing the 200 Hopmeadow St. building and property.
In addition, the town hired Gateway Planning to launch a land-use study that included a public input process, facility research, interviews with staff, utility companies and more.
The Hartford is paying the majority of the Gateway contract, which is for up to $174,990. The town is funding $30,000 of it.
Tuesday night consultants presented the
public with both the results of the community and stakeholder input process as well
as general information about the site.
This week, Gateway consultants emphasized the following parallel
- Selling the building for office reuse if possible
- Redevelopment of 170 acres in a preservation context
- Build on the strengths of community and site
Scott Polikov, president of the Vialta Group, a company of Gateway Planning and Balfour Beatty, agreed that it would still be ideal to sell the building for office use.
With some 640,000 square feet and an
ever-changing business environment that might present some challenges but also
some opportunities, he said. The building has significant power capacity,
fiber, low hazards, column spans, and an existing data center, consultants
said. They also asserted that the space is ideal for modifications in a number
The presentation also asserted that the site
had good mixed use potential with a combination of office, stacked residential
Consultants also reviewed the charrette process and some of the ideas it generated.
Polikov said results from two community sessions were interesting. For example, residents picked environment and community character as the #1 reason for living in town, far surpassing schools, housing and others. While there could be a variety of reasons for that and other answers, he said it was clear that people want the re-use of the building to factor in preservation, existing buffers and more.
Increased river and trail access with balancing preservation were also discussed. He said participants seemed to value some of those factors over any specific use.
"I think there’s more tolerance for more creative uses," he said.
Consultants also offered three potential re-use strategies should a single user not come forward. The ideas all incorporated some development for the 40-acre "cornfield" to the north of the office building, which is also owned by The Hartford.
- A whole health village with a mix of facilities for young and old, sports complexes, retail, gardens and a variety of housing that could appeal to those looking for smaller living options
- A Farm to Table Eco village with ideas such as garden, breweries, food research, specialty grocers and a mix of housing types with more of an emphasis on preservation.
- A Corporate Research village with uses such as biotech or science research, with a possible education component and again a mix of housing options.
From here, consultants will help the town develop form-based
codes for the property, which emphasize design, form and function over specific
To an audience question, Peck acknowledged it was different than the town center, on private and that The Hartford would have “veto power.”
But officials said it's not an adversarial or futile process.
“We appreciate the town of Simsbury's leadership in commissioning the land use study, and were encouraged by the participation of stakeholders in exploring options for the property as part of focus groups held this past week,” said Julia Zweig, Manager, Corporate External Communications for The Hartford. “We are hopeful that the process will help raise awareness about the unique nature of the property and the community in which it resides. The Hartford remains focused on finding an attractive buyer for the community.”
First Selectman Mary Glassman said the partnership is an unusual one. She said it's important for the town to be proactive.
"We didn't want to sit back and wait," she said. "We're sending a message that the town is a partner."
The process will provide some additional tools in marketing the property, helps show what Simsbury has to offer and will help showcase just how ready to go the site is, according to Glassman.
Glassman said she the process also revealed the advantage of the building's power capacity and other utilities.
“We heard a lot of exciting things tonight,” First Selectman
Mary Glassman said following the final public session earlier this week.
Selectman Nancy Haase, who is running against Glassman, said people have been frustrated with The Hartford consolidating to neighboring towns and many feel the town could have perhaps done more when they announced they were leaving.
Haase agrees, however, that there was value in the charrette.
"I think it's a valuable process," she said. "It's a great planning tool. The hard work begins now."
According to documents from the tax office, The Hartford has a total tax liability of $1.8 million for 2013-2014, about $1.2 of that through real estate and the rest personal property. Over the past several years that number has fluxuated a little but at times its total tax liability was more than $2 million — about $2.4 million for 2009-2010.
Glassman said The Hartford supplies about 2 percent of the town's revenues. The town is also being proactive with several other projects in town, she said.