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Planned Purchase Shows Commitment To City

By JOSHUA KING, Letters to the Editor

December 21, 2007

Readers of The Courant awoke Wednesday to a stark front-page headline about our company ["Demolition Deal"], and an incomplete subheadline that said: "The Hartford's Asylum Hill Idea: Parking, Magnet School." It masked the "idea" most important to us: Stay in Hartford, provide a world-class headquarters for the 7,000 people who work here and grow with the neighborhood and the city. While other companies had the idea to pull up roots and leave, ours is to spread our roots and stay. It's an idea we hope to realize and one that should arrive as good news.

Over the past few months, we engaged urban planners to envision productive uses for the Garden Street property. Now that the prospective deal to buy the land is public, those discussions can expand to include our neighbors and other interested parties. It's a dialogue we welcome in which we'll examine economically feasible, and potentially very exciting, ideas.

If those viable ideas well beyond donation of land for a much-needed magnet school and additional parking for our overcrowded campus include preservation of the original Connecticut Mutual building, we welcome that, too. News of our intention (it's only that at this point) to acquire the Garden Street property didn't end the story, it marked the beginning.

As watchers of Hartford's efforts to spur development know all too well, nothing happens overnight. Indeed, things often don't happen for years, if at all. That seemed the fate awaiting this vacant and idle property, until we stepped forward.

Our hope, as we approach our company's bicentennial and our 87th year on Asylum Hill, is to write a different kind of history. We have a vested interest in improving our campus and our neighborhood. It's one way a company like ours attracts great people from around the country to move here. Our employees, and our neighbors as well, need more places within walking distance to live, eat, shop, be entertained and, yes, park their cars.

Although we're optimists by nature, we're also in the realistic, clear-eyed business of managing risk. Forgive us, then, if we can't share The Courant's view, as expressed in Thursday's editorial ["Hold The Wrecking Ball"], that drawing board plans for the busway and commuter rail will offer a timely fix for a presently acute and still worsening challenge as we grow. Today, we have to shuttle 600 employees to work each day from a remote overflow parking lot near Union Station, the lease for which expires in 2010, the same year we'll celebrate our 200th birthday.

As we move each month closer to that milestone, purchase of this property shows our commitment to the city and offers hope if we work with common purpose even amid different interests for a better tomorrow for our company, our neighbors and our city.

Joshua King

Vice President Media and Community Relations The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. Hartford

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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