For Stadium, Hartford to Buy Back Land It Once Owned

Jul 21, 2014

A rendering of the proposed baseball stadium.
Credit City of Hartford

Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra needs to buy two acres of vacant land to help make his plan for a minor league baseball stadium a reality. That land, however, has a complicated history. 

In 1967, the city sold a bunch of property near I-84 to the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute of Connecticut for $600,000. The school was supposed to spend $4 million to develop the property by the time 20 years had passed. If it didn't do that, the city could take the property back.

Now that the city wants some of that land for its baseball stadium, taking it back for free sounds a whole lot better than coming up with the $1.7 million it has agreed to pay. The question is, did Rensselaer ever do what it was supposed to?

"The problem that we're finding right now is it's not clear what the improvements were and it's not clear that the improvements were not completed," said Thomas Deller, the city's development director. He said that attorneys looked into the matter. They found that if Rennselaer failed to live up to its contract, no one at the city appears to have formally cried foul.

That is, 27 years ago, the city missed its chance to speak up and take the property back. 

Thomas Deller, Hartford's development director.
Credit Chion Wolf / WNPR

DELLER: I'm going to say it was probably toward the end of '13 that we finally decided that, if we were going to acquire it, we were going to have to buy it.

COHEN: Because you were hoping not to have to buy it...

DELLER: We were hoping not to have to buy it. And this was all prior to even thinking about putting the ballpark on this site.

Deller said the city has wanted to buy this and other properties for a while, all part of a plan to help better market the entire neighborhood to developers.

On a related matter, Shawn Wooden, the city council's president, said the council has decided to hire UConn's Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis to advise it on the ballpark. Fred Carstensen is the center's director.