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Culinary Institute Proposal Revived

Hastings Hotel Still Considered For Site

June 8, 2005
By JEFFREY B. COHEN, Courant Staff Writer

A proposal to make the former Hastings Hotel and Conference Center in Hartford the new home of the Connecticut Culinary Institute, in limbo for 10 months, has been revived, two officials confirmed Tuesday.

"Nothing has been signed at this point, but it would not at all be overstepping the line to say that there are conversations between all of the players involved daily," said Brooke Baran, a spokeswoman for the institute. "Things are certainly more positive than they were ... but it's still a large deal to try to put together.

"We are still hopeful that we will at some point be able to call the Hastings `home,'" she said.

Fred Laberge, a spokesman for Aetna, which holds the building's mortgage, agreed. "We are hopeful, as well, that we can work toward an agreement that might put the Culinary Institute in the Hastings," he said.

The Hastings, with 271 rooms and 55,000 square feet of conference space, was closed in late 2003, putting more than 100 people out of work and forcing other businesses in the building to close. Last August, the first institute deal - one that would have paid Aetna between $8 million and $10 million for the building - fell apart when a developer in its partnership backed out.

This new deal includes some new players, Baran said.

"There are still quite a few things outstanding in terms of whether the deal will actually happen," she said. "CCI is very committed to trying to put the deal together."

The location suits the institute because it offers ample student housing, a restaurant and a banquet facility. The Hastings would replace the institute's Farmington campus, although its Suffield campus would remain, she said.

Conversion of the Hastings for CCI would require significant renovations to the Asylum Hill building, including the addition of 11 teaching kitchens. Another issue is the building's disuse since earlier negotiations ended in August, Baran said. "So the due diligence process now will be tougher than it was on the first go-round," she said.

"Everybody is hopeful that, collectively, we can find our way to great news, and to me being able to say that things are now signed," she said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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