JOE DiBACCO ’19
At the most recent Board of Trustees meeting, which took place on Oct. 15, it was decided that Trinity will sell 200 Constitution Plaza, originally purchased by the school in an effort to establish a physical presence in downtown Hartford and improve the school’s working relationship with the rest of the city. The building, formerly the Travelers Education Center had been vacant for four years before Trinity purchased it for $2 million at the beginning of 2015.
According to President Berger-Sweeney’s recent e-mail regarding the minutes of the trustees meeting, the space in the building that Trinity is leasing to other organizations can be used for three things: building a connection between Trinity undergraduates and Hartford’s business district, collaborating with other colleges and universities in Hartford and creating graduate programs that create positive cash flow for Trinity and have mission statements jive with Trinity’s.
Other local schools that have bought land and set up downtown campuses include the University of St. Joseph and Capital Community College. The University of Connecticut has purchased the site where the Hartford Times used to be and intends to build its regional campus there in 2017. Thirty years old, 200 Constitution Plaza has classrooms, a library, and an amphitheater, among other educational resources, making it readily useful to any institution of higher learning that occupies it.
In January of 2016, Jason Rojas, President Berger-Sweeney’s Chief of Staff, stated that the ideal buyers/lessees Trinity makes transactions with involving 200 Constitution Plaza will carry out plans that benefit Trinity in some way, preferably the provision of internship opportunities to its students. One of the greatest advantages to having a presence in downtown Hartford would be the increased access to top-tier internships as a result of a strengthened relationship between Trinity and Hartford. This is doubly important considering that the Connecticut State Capitol is in Hartford, which is a plentiful source of real-world experience for students pursuing degrees in Political Science, Law & Public Policy, Economics, and others. In a Hartford Courant article from January of this year, Rojas was quoted as saying, “In a lot of real estate transactions, things change once you get in.” He seemed to be implying that despite receiving multiple offers for 200 Constitution Plaza, negotiations did not go exactly how Trinity had planned. Now it is November, and Trinity still does not know who owns the building and who the two floors are being leased to.
After Trinity finalized its purchase of 200 Constitution Plaza, the College realized rather quickly that it only needed about one-third of what was given to them in the deal. When asked about Trinity’s reaction to having excess space, Rojas said, “Our goal was not to be a landlord, but having a presence downtown.”
The building was last used by The Travelers Companies (whose principal office is in Hartford) four years ago. It was in need of repair when Trinity took ownership of it. Rojas denied a Courant reporter’s request for an approximation of how much renovations would cost the school.
When discussing Trinity’s dealings with Constitution Plaza, the question on everyone’s mind is how can the school establish a feasible method of transportation between the Summit Street campus and downtown. The Tripod asked Jason Rojas that very question, and he provided a few different options the school has been considering. According to Rojas, the most likely routes to pursue were “a Trinity shuttle service, use of our current UPass system that many students already use, or potentially a partnership with Uber or Lyft services.” Among those, an alliance with either Uber or Lyft seems that it would be most fruitful considering how readily accessible and reliable those two ride-hailing services are. For the UPass system to work, the frequency of rides given to students each day would have to increase significantly to accommodate the needs of students who may need to travel to and from Trinity’s Summit Street campus, depending on their schedules.
Rojas said that the school is in the final stages of its negotiations with a “property owner who would purchase the 200 Constitution Plaza building from Trinity,” but that there are “no definitive plans for leasing space to others at Constitution Plaza.”
JOE DiBACCO ’19