University of Connecticut chooses downtown Hartford, may boost what once was blight.
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University of Connecticut chooses downtown Hartford, may boost what once was blight.

The Hartford Courant today editorializes in support of the University of Connecticut establishing new headquarters in downtown. The former Hartford Times office, still gleams through the grime and decades of neglect.

The Times of Hartford: Then and Now

Is this good news? Nearly unquestionably.  Existing businesses will see more foot traffic and more dollars spent in their stores. The residential sector will undoubtedly get a boost, as workers, faculty and students populate the southern end of a fairly empty downtown.

Of course, the city of Hartford will only gain revenues and value from this investment in public infrastructure indirectly from whatever development does occur off-site. 

It can be reasonably assumed that a payment in lieu of taxes program will be deployed to pay for city services, but the time frame and the expense of development off-site make the recent passage into law of land value taxation for up to three Connecticut cities, as part of a pilot program to test the utility of LVT.

Although jaunty about future growth and stabilization of the area, the Courant justifiably is concerned about concrete issues that may create problems unless addressed. Just because the existence of the automobile is a fact of life, it should not mean that this vision must come to fruition with a mono-focus on where to put the cars.

The answer lies in the sky: instead of 20 surface parking lots (about the number that infest that area), build up.  A parking garage, uniquely set back to wrap residential and retail units around the outside are becoming standard "infill kit" from Albuquerque to Dallas.

One can easily imagine a structure like the one below in Texas filling in the streets around the new UConn with little to worry about for parking.  However, these projects could remain in the imagination considering how hard it is to build in a large Northeast US city.

Currently to achieve this vision, any developer's costs would be nearly too high, and the resulting sale price would be out of reach a prospective buyers and renters.  One prime reason is that consolidation of land parcels depends upon the tender mercies of land speculators who have been in Hartford for nearly 50 years now, unwilling to sell, and encouraged to hold on due to the low cost of sitting on land.

The traditional solution to this particular problem is to shower builders with tax breaks, giveaways, and abatements.  In the current fiscal climate of Hartford's declining tax base, and its highest-in the-state tax rate (see below), this is not counter-intuitive as a strategy. It simply is not affordable anymore.

While no one believes that cities can be turned around anymore "by one more big project"that breaks the bank, many are convinced that a retooling of municipal tax structures can be adjust, efficient and equitable way to not only fund necessary city services but also to encourage infill and reward hard work, investment, and initiative.

Certainly, the area surrounding the Hartford Times building is chockablock with vacant and redevelopment (exempt) parcels crying out for sensible use, not to mention the many warehouse to buildings that are in desperate need of capital investment.  UrbanTools believes that CSE research will lead Hartford to the conclusion that a land value tax can be of benefit not just for infill in the Hartford Times building area, but to also increase the value of the city's land, thereby leading to stabilization and then reduction of taxes for all Hartfordians.

Mapping Vacancy Around Prospect Street:

8 Comments to University of Connecticut chooses downtown Hartford, may boost what once was blight.:

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