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There is considerable and sometimes confusing discussion regarding the future of the former UConn site in West Hartford. The dominant issue is whether the Town of West Hartford should exercise its right-of-first-refusal to buy the property from UConn by June 17, or step back and let the Weiming Education Group purchase it to build an international boarding high school.
As a 40-year West Hartford resident who raised and educated three children here, lives near the campus, and currently serves as the Executive Director of The Children’s Museum located about a mile from the UConn site, I have very vested interests in this issue. I do not want to take sides in the land purchase discussion due to a current dearth of critical information from which to work. Rather, I wish to highlight a few observations that I hope will be kept in mind as Town and State leaders as well as fellow residents think their way through this decision.
First and foremost, bear in mind that The Children’s Museum (TCM) must relocate soon and it believes a small portion of the UConn campus would provide an ideal new home site. As we have stated through many public briefings and media interviews, there are two viable options which will allow the Town, the Hartford region and the State to preserve this 89-year-old, family- oriented, premier educational entity that has provided hands-on learning opportunities to four generations and millions of young children. The first option would be to convert the entire property to a “Central Park setting,” with the current buildings repurposed for cultural entities, like The Children’s Museum, to lease from the Town — a large, user-friendly setting that would add significant value to the quality of life in this area. The second option, should West Hartford choose to allow sale of the property to a third party like Weiming, would be to preserve a small area on the east side of Trout Brook Drive for the Museum and a public park. Both of these options can physically accommodate the Museum and would be valuable economic and cultural drivers for our region.
I understand that there are those who rightfully worry about the cost and resources needed for either of these options. But I would underscore that it is always better to start with a consensus vision and then work towards implementing a plan for attaining it. Leading is always better than catching up.
Michael J Werle, PhD
The Children’s Museum