July 7, 2008 | last updated May 26, 2012 4:54 am

Aetna Employees Leave Middletown - For Home

This month marks the two-year anniversary of Aetna's announcement that it planned to move 3,500 workers from its Middletown campus to its Hartford location by 2010.

Halfway through the four-year project, few employees have been relocated to Hartford, but construction remains on schedule and a new telecommuting initiative for the company's Connecticut work force is taking shape.

Aetna spokesman Fred Laberge said the former ING building at Farmington Avenue and Flower Street — the future home of 3,500 Aetna employees — has been "essentially cleaned out," but it will be about a year, at least, before employees are transferred there.

The other significant construction project at Aetna's Hartford location — as shown by the cranes and construction workers near the I-84 overpass — is the adjacent parking deck. Its completion is also about a year away.

"We need to get our house in order before we can start the move," Laberge said. "It will be another year or so before we do that."

Meanwhile, some Aetna employees are already leaving Middletown — but they're not going to Hartford, they're going home. At its peak, the Middletown campus had capacity for 4,700 workers. About 1,200 of them won't be making the move to Hartford.

"We have started to put together a telecommuting program because we're not eliminating 1,200 positions," Laberge said. "Some people have started to take part and it will continue to expand as we get closer to actually moving."

Laberge estimated that several hundred Aetna employees based in Middletown have started to telecommute.

One aspect of the move that remains up in the air is the future of the 1.3-million-square-foot Middletown building, constructed for $145 million in 1983. It sits on more than 200 acres of land.

Aetna owns the land and leases the main building in Middletown. That lease expires in 2010. Options on the table for Aetna include buying the building to tear it down or redeveloping the site.

"We haven't made a decision yet, and we're still evaluating all the options," Laberge said. "We own the land, but don't own the building, so there are issues that still have to be worked out."

Multifamily Rents Rise

Average rents for multifamily units in the Hartford region have continued rising despite housing woes, according to a rental market report from New York-based Sunrise Management and Consulting.

In its report, the company found that many younger adults and couples that have traditionally graduated from apartment living to single family homes or condominiums have remained "stuck" in apartments because of larger down payment requirements for ownership.

In the Hartford region, the average rent increased to $1,016, up $19 from the last report in the fall of 2007. Rents are up 10.4 percent from 2005, when they averaged $920.

Surprisingly, rental rates in high-priced Fairfield County declined by $8 to $1,503.

Splashdown in Waterbury

Holiday Inn Waterbury has announced that it will be the tenth hotel in the nation to have a CoCo Key resort, a 55,000-square-foot indoor water park that will open in October.

It is part of a massive expansion and upgrade of the 284-room hotel that includes renovated rooms, a new restaurant, an indoor pool and a fitness center

When renovations are completed, the hotel will have a ballroom of more than 11,000 square feet and 22 meeting rooms.

The CoCo Key water park is expected to draw families from New York and Massachusetts. "Waterbury has always been a central location," said Chris Costabile, the hotel's general manager. "But now it is a business and vacation destination."

Sean O'Leary is a Hartford Business Journal staff writer.


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