Malloy Wants To Develop Greater Hartford, Wean Venues Off State Aid

Jan 23, 2012

It's been more than a decade since another governor tried to remake the state's capital city with more than a billion dollars of investment.  As WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports, now Governor Dannel Malloy wants to leave a mark, too.  Former Governor John Rowland tried to build downtown Hartford out of its malaise -- a project that resulted in more housing, parking, a convention center, a science center, a still mostly-empty retail project, and more.  Now, Malloy wants a turn.  Last week, he announced a plan for a new state agency that would both guide development in the capital city and the region and, in the short term, oversee the state's major entertainment assets.  Catherine Smith is the commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development. "Would I have done everything exactly the way they've been done in the past 10 years?  Maybe not. and 20/20 hindsight is such nice thing, isn't it?  But having said that, we are where we are. So, I think really what we want to see this new entity do through the leaders that we put on it is come up with the right strategy for the next decade." Smith says that may mean weaning some of those assets of the state's checkbook.  "First and foremost we want to get the venues that are here -- the Civic Center, now XL Center, the convention center, Rentshcler Field and others -- kind of up and running on break-even basis, which they're not quite at in some cases.  So I think that's an important mission for this organization." Smith and Malloy are proposing the Capital Region Development Authority.  It will, in Smith's words, subsume the existing agency that oversaw Rowland's redevelopment of Hartford -- the Capital City Economic Development Authority.  As opposed to Rowland, who came with ideas and money to make them happen, Smith says Malloy is taking a grassroots strategy.  And she says the whole region depends on it.  "We're all going to rise and fall based on how this city does. So it's really important that we get theiinput form the local towns, that they understand that the success of Hartford itself will be a success for all of us." Malloy  plans to introduce legislation establishing the authority in next month's session. For WNPR, I'm Jeff Cohen.