Legislation Would Create 13-Member Authority To Tackle Issues With Unified Approach
By Jenna Carlesso
January 20, 2012
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Thursday he wants to create a 13-member authority that would bolster development efforts in Hartford and East Hartford, essentially replacing a similar entity created by former Gov. John G. Rowland more than a decade ago.
He said legislation establishing the new organization would be introduced during the regular legislative session, which begins in less than three weeks.
The Capital Region Development Authority would include four members appointed by Malloy; two appointed by Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra; Segarra, himself; East Hartford Mayor Marcia Leclerc; the commissioners of the Departments of Transportation and Economic and Community Development; the secretary of the Office of Policy and Management; and one appointment each for the state House of Representatives and the Senate.
The authority would replace the Capital City Economic Development Authority, or CCEDA, which Rowland formed in 1998 to oversee six redevelopment projects in Hartford. Its projects include a new convention center and sports stadium -- part of the Adriaen's Landing project -- a downtown higher education center, new housing units, renovations to the Civic Center and its coliseum, expanded downtown parking and riverfront improvements.
"What we've done here is expand the scope and make it more regional-focused, and I think that will help the city," said Catherine Smith, commissioner of economic and community development. "We want to create a more vibrant downtown, fill out office space and drive more housing downtown, and we hope this will be a vehicle for productive conversation, planning and execution."
The authority would work with businesses and city organizations, such as those behind the iQuilt project in Hartford, the Bushnell and the Wadsworth Atheneum. It would seek to attract new businesses to the region, officials said, and coordinate operations at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, Rentschler Field in East Hartford and the XL Center -- the former Civic Center -- in the heart of downtown Hartford.
"Currently, we're operating facilities as if they're competitors -- and I want that to end," Malloy said during an announcement Thursday in the Old Judiciary Room at the Capitol. "I'm trying to reach a unified effort. ... What we need is a unified approach."
The authority would assist cultural and entertainment venues, parks and other organizations in seeking state funding, and expand the development district currently under CCEDA.
Malloy said he wants to see the University of Connecticut's men's and women's basketball teams play at the XL Center as often as possible.
"I want the XL Center to be used more nights," he said. "We need that venue to be kicked up a notch."
Smith said details about how the group would attract new businesses and promote the city's entertainment venues have yet to be determined.
"The specifics are to be worked out over time," she said. "Overall, we want to coordinate much better the work we're doing to attract sports and other events to our various venues."
Smith said the quasi-public CCEDA's budget would be "rolled in" to the new authority. Juliet Manalan, a spokeswoman for Malloy, said it was unclear if CCEDA's current members would be part of the new effort.
"We don't have an answer for that yet," Manalan said. "We don't know what the legislation is going to look like. The details are forthcoming."
Asked Thursday if his description was cryptic, Malloy responded, "It's not cryptic. It's a work in progress. And for a work in progress, we need a new entity."
William McCue, chairman of the Capital City Economic Development Authority, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Segarra said Thursday that he's eager to press on with economic development plans, including addressing the city's growing vacancies in retail and office space.
"I've never been pleased with the rate of development," he said. "It needs to be accelerated, especially in this economy. We need to figure out a way to make this environment more conducive to business."
Segarra's two appointees will include one member of his administration and a member from the community. He said Thursday he has not chosen anyone yet, but would probably appoint his development director -- a position that is currently vacant -- or finance director, in addition to an active city resident. David Panagore, Hartford's chief operating officer, is currently filling in as development director, Segarra said.
"From day one serving on the governor's transition team, I said the city needs to speed up its rate of progress and align our policies with the state so we're [moving] toward the same direction," he said. "I'm totally in support of this."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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