As the newly minted Connecticut Region Development Authority finally gets its bearings, 2013 is expected to be a year of action.
A decision on the fate of the XL Center is expected to be announced early in the year and several major downtown housing projects could break ground before the year is over.
And CRDA also plans to extend its reach and offer more support and services beyond downtown Hartford, to other nearby cities and towns.
Leading the charge is Michael W. Freimuth, CRDA's executive director who was appointed to the position by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in September.
Freimuth, 57, has strong ties with Malloy, having served as his economic developer director when Malloy was mayor of Stamford.
Freimuth helped oversee much of Stamford's economic turnaround. He was credited as the architect of the Harbor Point development and with helping bring RBS to Stamford.
Now, however, Freimuth spends his days getting to know the Hartford market, which he says has its share of challenges.
"It is a difficult market place," Freimuth said. "The rental rates, costs of construction, vacancy rates and tax structure all pose challenges. We will address as much as we can."
Freimuth said the three main items on his agenda for 2013 include the XL Center, housing development and Greater Hartford economic development.
By January, CRDA is expected to choose the next manager of the XL Center and Rentschler Field. That will be an important step in determining the fate of the XL Center, which is need of a major facelift.
For the first time, the XL Center and Rentschler Field are being packaged together, as CRDA looks to consolidate management of both facilities to one organization.
CRDA is also asking interested parties to submit plans for the renovation, redevelopment and replacement, or possible privatization of the XL Center.
It's the first indication that CRDA, the state, and city of Hartford may consider selling off ownership of the XL Center to a private entity.
Four firms submitted management bids for the properties including the University of Connecticut, AEG Management CT LLC, Capital Region Sports and Entertainment Group and Philadelphia's Global Spectrum.
While new management is being selected, negotiations will also be ongoing with AHL Hockey's Connecticut Whale franchise and UConn basketball as contracts for both organizations are set to expire soon. Negotiations will also have to be finalized with UConn hockey, which is making the move to the high-profile Hockey East conference with plans to play games in Hartford.
"There are a lot of elements that all have to come together by early 2013," Freimuth said.
Meanwhile, Freimuth said plans also call for CRDA to launch several housing projects next year as CRDA tries to reach a goal of adding 1,000 new units downtown.
Freimuth said residential projects at Front Street, the former Sonesta Hotel on Constitution Plaza, and 777 Main St. are the closest to finalizing financing agreements and one or more could break ground sometime in 2013.
CRDA is also working on setting up an approximately $7 million fund to help support smaller housing projects downtown that could add an additional 100 units to the area. Smaller projects are being discussed, Freimuth said, at properties on Pratt, Temple, and Lewis streets.
Finally, another important goal will be better defining CRDA's role in development beyond downtown Hartford.
"We want to offer the agency as an instrument of the Greater Hartford region to assist in projects," Freimuth said. "But CRDA hasn't taken on the definition on how to do that yet."