It’s an exciting time to be in Hartford, CT. Of course, it will be even more exciting in a few years when work on the immense Adriaen’s Landing is completed. By that time, downtown Hartford will be transformed into something quite different than it is today. “It will add up to a refreshing landscape,” according to an official overseeing the project.
Adriaen’s Landing is a major mixed-use development in the heart of the city that will include a large convention center, hotel, museum, and 200 luxury apartments, along with space for shops, restaurants, entertainment and parking. The cost of the entire project is estimated to be $770 million, but because of the blight the downtown has seen since the early ’90s when many banks and insurance companies in Hartford consolidated, it will be a welcome expenditure. But according to Matt Fleury, director of marketing and communications for Capital City Economic Development Authority, the state has a governor, John G. Rowland, who is “extraordinarily committed” to rebuilding the city.
“Behind the scenes, there has been a tremendous amount of effort to reach this day. And now, as the visible signs of progress emerge, all of us are witnessing a new day in our capital city, Rowland said at the groundbreaking earlier this year. “Each of us is now in a position to carry the word forth, that we’ve seen it with our own eyes. Something big is happening in Hartford.”
While the project points to the future, it has a strong link to the city’s past. The project is named for Adriaen Block, a Dutch mariner who discovered the Connecticut River valley way back in 1615.
The buildings are going on a 33-acre (13.3 ha) parcel of land on the easternmost edge of downtown Hartford, right by the banks of the Connecticut River. The Connecticut Convention Center will be the largest one in New England outside of Boston, measuring 500,000 sq. ft. (46,451 sq m). Of that area, 143,000 sq. ft. (13,285 sq m) will be dedicated to exhibit hall, meeting and ballroom space and parking. With its central location, it is a relatively short drive for 22 million people living between Boston and New York City, so it should attract many to the city.
A new Marriott Hotel with 425 rooms will also go up in the same facility, although 275 more rooms could be added at a later date. Other buildings are still in the planning stages, such as a 150,000-sq.-ft. (13,935 sq m) science museum. “It will be a real celebration of Connecticut’s very rich natural and industrial history,” Fleury said, adding that it will showcase the area’s advances in the aerospace and pharmaceutical arenas.
“A lot of things are still in the birthing project,” he explained. In fact, developers are still not entirely certain how many buildings there will be ultimately.
Much of the project is being managed by the Hunt/Gilbane Joint Venture, a combination of two of the largest construction companies in the country. It also is the primary contractor for Rentschler Field, the new football stadium for the University of Connecticut being built in East Hartford. The architectural firm of Thompson, Ventullet, Stainback and Associates of Atlanta, GA, is the designer of the convention center. As for the retail, residential and entertainment portions, three other architects were brought in: Elkus/Manfredi of Boston, Costas Kondylis & Partners of New York City and Williams Jackson Ewing of Baltimore.
“It was designed to be architecturally attractive so that it flatters the city,” Fleury said. “Adriaen’s Landing will be built in such a way to strengthen Hartford’s existing assets.”
Ground was broken on May 31, 2001, so most of the work being done so far only involves excavation.
“There are very large excavations,” Fleury explained. “The utility systems have to be borrowed, so they have to dig underneath highways and very deep into the ground.” Numerous utility lines will be placed in the ground, such as fiber optics, sewer, gas and steam. Plans are to finish the digging this winter so that pile driving can start sometime in the first quarter of 2002. Earth Technologies Inc. is the subcontractor in charge of the excavations. In all, digging will take approximately 12 months to complete. At press time, the company was using John Deere, Caterpillar and Schwing cranes.
According to Fleury, most of the buildings will not actually go very far into the ground because they will be connected to parking facilities underneath. With the project set in an urban environment, a number of issues will come into play, such as what to do with traffic going through that part of town. Detours and temporary highway exits also had to be created, large jobs in themselves. When things are finished, pedestrian and vehicular traffic will draw people from Adriaen’s Landing into the neighboring downtown areas, creating what some consultants are calling a “connective tissue.”
“This had to be developed with an extraordinary amount of thought,” Fleury commented. “It’s a tremendous project with the management of everything this complex. The team is doing a tremendous job of stepping up to it.”
If everything goes as scheduled, the first events will be held at the convention center during the winter of 2004-5.