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As Downtown Hartford's Old Broadcast House Is Razed, Developer Rethinks Design Of Replacement


September 17, 2009

The glossy architectural renderings unveiled last year for a 12-story office tower on the site of the old studios for WFSB, Channel 3, were eye-catching enough.

Now, the developer says they are about to get even better.

Developer Abul A. Islam said Wednesday that he has hired a new architectural firm that will significantly change the look of the building although it will be about the same size. Islam hopes to unveil those renderings next month.

"I wanted to commission an architect to design a structure that won't go out of fashion in five, 10 years," Islam said. "I'm investing so much, I don't want to settle for second best."

The new, $40 million office tower with street-level retail and public meeting spaces would replace the old Broadcast House on Constitution Plaza, which contractors began tearing down Wednesday.

Broadcast House has been vacant since 2007, when WFSB moved to a new studio in Rocky Hill. Opened in 1961, Broadcast House was hailed as a marvel of modern architecture and technology.

In recent years, the once-celebrated four-story building with its scalloped cornice fell into disrepair, and many people called for its demolition.

In its place, Islam envisions a tower that would be distinguished from others in the city because it will use more than the usual "green" technology, which he said would make it attractive to tenants in and outside the city, even in a soft commercial leasing market.

Islam's company, AI Engineers Inc., based in Middletown, will lease two floors and is close to signing a formal lease with another tenant for at least one floor. He declined Wednesday to identify the potential tenant.

The timetable for the project's completion is being pushed back to late summer of 2011. Initially, Islam had hoped to see demolition in May and construction beginning this month, with completion in late 2010 or early 2011.

But Islam said he wanted to draw up new designs for the building, and he hired the Boston firm CBT Architects.

Islam said the challenge is to ensure that the building fits into the surrounding landscape while still standing out. The building would be near the iconic Phoenix "boat building" and the new, Cesar Pelli-designed Connecticut Science Center.

Islam said he continues to talk to sources of financing, but must first complete the new plans. He is investing $2 million of his own money in the purchase of the property and the demolition of Broadcast House.

Onlookers gathered Wednesday at lunchtime as an excavator arm clawed at the building, whose interior already has been gutted.

"Have you come to watch the show?" UPS driver Jon Snyder asked paralegal Lisa Voorvaart, as he jumped up into his delivery truck.

"Yeah," said Voorvaart, grabbing a smoke outside the Hartford Steam Boiler building. "I want to make sure they do it right!"

There was a mixture of nostalgia and excitement at the Broadcast House's coming down.

"It's been here since I was kid," Snyder said. "Part of me is sad, but part of me is interested in what will come next."

As a youngster, Snyder, now 35, remembers passing the building when his father took him to breakfast on weekends at a restaurant in the old G. Fox & Co. department store on Main Street.

Voorvaart said it wouldn't be soon enough for her that the building comes down. Cities, she said, have to move on, razing old buildings that are outdated or aren't of historical significance.

"It's old, ugly and out-of-date," she said. "Good riddance. Put up something new, bright and clean."

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.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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