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Constitution Plaza Tower To Feature 12 Stories Of Office Space, Rooftop Restaurant

KENNETH R. GOSSELIN

November 12, 2009

Designs for a 12-story office tower that would replace the old WFSB, Channel 3, studios in downtown Hartford no longer include curved architectural flourishes meant to mimic the nearby Phoenix "boat building" and Connecticut Science Center.

Instead, new plans to be unveiled this morning at a press conference call for an exterior that is "more square than curvy," an interior atrium soaring from the lobby to the roof and a rooftop restaurant that would be open to the public, according to the builder, Abul A. Islam.

Islam said Wednesday that the new design is more in keeping with the style of the office structures on Constitution Plaza, of which the new tower will be part. Yet the design will still set it apart key to marketing a building that Islam says will have "green" technology infused into nearly every square foot.

"It had to have its own distinctive architecture," Islam said.

Islam's company, AI Engineers Inc., based in Middletown, will occupy two floors of the building, to be called the AI Tech Center. He is expected today to announce a lease with another tenant. Islam wouldn't identify the tenant Wednesday, but said the lease was for one floor.

The interior atrium would have a glass roof that would flood the space with light. Offices bordering the atrium would have glass walls to help convey activity and vibrancy inside. The rooftop restaurant, which doesn't have an operator yet, would capitalize on views of downtown and the Connecticut River.

It has been nearly a year since Islam announced the project. He now estimates that the cost will be slightly more than the $40 million initially projected, closer to $40 million to $45 million.

The size of the tower remains nearly the same in the new design, nearly 180,000 square feet of office space, plus 16,000 square feet of retail and space that could be used by the public.

Demolition of the old Broadcast House should be completed in two or three weeks, but some of the debris will remain on the site, Islam said. It will be recycled, he said, for use in the new building.

Construction could begin in late spring or early summer of 2010, with space ready for tenants by late summer 2011.

Much still depends on securing financing for the project. Islam said Wednesday he is making significant strides, but still must have 60 percent of the building spoken for by tenants. So far, the two leases, Islam's and the tenant expected to be revealed today, account for about 50,000 square feet, or slightly less than 30 percent.

Islam acknowledges that the market for offices in downtown Hartford is slow. But he said he remains optimistic about leasing opportunities. Islam said he believes that the strong emphasis on green technology will attract tenants from inside and more important from outside the city.

"The market is not the greatest, but my building is unique in Hartford," Islam said. "There has been no new [office] building in Hartford in 20 years."

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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