Hartford's $1 billion-plus Adriaen's Landing redevelopment scheme hasn't exactly produced the big-time economic results promised when the state agreed to fund the project a decade ago. And the Front Street section, which was completed in 2010, has been an empty embarrassment for the city and the state.
But now things may, at long last, actually be turning around. Of course, that's not happening without another infusion of state taxpayer money.
Last week, the state Bond Commission approved $1.3 million to help Infinity Music Hall and Bistro open up a new 500-seat theater/restaurant in one of the Front Street buildings. Another $3.9 million in private investments will be needed to complete the ambitious project.
The Infinity Hall project comes on top of a four-screen movie theater that's scheduled to open next month in another part of Front Street. Gov. Dannel Malloy — who hasn't been much of a fan of the way the whole project has been handled — now says Front Street is beginning to have the critical mass needed to make it really work.
"I've never hidden some of my differences I had with the Front Street development," Malloy said. "I'm not sure the project was as well thought-out as it needed to have been." He added he's been personally involved in attempting to bring another business into the Front Street combination.
Infinity Hall is already operating a very successful 300-seat theater in Norfolk and now has a nationally televised music show on PBS. Its operators say finding a new venue in the Hartford area has been a long-standing target of theirs.
Robin Barrett, Infinity's chief financial officer, was glowing after the money was approved and insisted there won't be any problems with splitting up the music venue's audience between its existing operation in Norfolk and the larger Hartford location.
"We think we'll be in a very dynamic part of the state in Hartford," she said, "drawing from an entirely different part of the population… We think there will be some overlap, but I think we'll expand and attract a larger audience."
The goal is to draw concertgoers from places like Springfield, New Haven and eastern Connecticut that might not normally make the trek out to Norfolk in the northwestern part of the state.
Barrett says some of the same groups and artists that will be booked into the Norfolk theater will also play in Hartford, but that it won't necessarily be done on a regular basis.
The four-screen movie theater is expected to open in November, and Barrett said the plan is for the new Infinity Hall and Bistro to be in operation by the fourth quarter of 2014.