June 13, 2005
By JEFFREY B. COHEN, Courant Staff Writer
Four years after planning a performing arts center on Albany
Avenue, the University of Hartford is asking city and state
officials for more money to help pay for it.
The cost of the project at the former Thomas Cadillac site has
grown from $25 million to $30 million in four years, and the
university has raised about $8 million, officials said.
Some of the increase can be attributed to inflation and rising
construction costs, university spokesman David Isgur said.
Also, Isgur said, "As
we got more detailed, we got a much better sense of what the
overall and projected costs were going to be."
The center will provide instructional, rehearsal and performance
space for musicians, dancers and actors in the university's conservatory.
It also will enable the school to expand its relationship with
the nearby Artists Collective.
The university is asking the Connecticut Development Authority
for an additional $1.25 million for the project. The authority
has already promised $2 million.
Under the request, Hartford, rather than the university, would
make payments on the CDA bonds sold to finance the performing
arts center project.
City officials have run the numbers and say the site would generate
higher revenue for the city when it is improved. Although the
tax-exempt university won't be paying property taxes to the city,
the state will pay the city money in lieu of taxes on the university's
behalf, as it does for other tax-exempt properties.
The city council will meet today to discuss whether to support
Mayor Eddie A. Perez is behind a proposal to use up to 60 percent
of the annual state payments to the city for the site to pay
debt service for the authority's bonds.
"The mayor believes this is a very important project for
north Hartford," said Matt Hennessy, the mayor's chief of
staff. "A lot of folks in the community have been working
on this project for a number of years now, and now's the time
to push it forward."
The development authority is scheduled to decide Wednesday whether
to give the project the additional money. A spokesman for the
authority declined to say what the staff recommendation to the
authority's board will be.
Hennessy said he thinks they
will be supportive, "because
they're aware of our interest in this project and how important
it is to Albany Avenue."
"It's certainly the CDA's decision to make," Isgur
said. "But we appreciate that they've certainly given us
support for the project."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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