July 11, 2016

State workers begin filling CT's downtown twin towers

PHOTOs | Steve Laschever
PHOTOs | Steve Laschever
Twin towers (left) comprise the state's newest office building, 450 Columbus Blvd., overlooking Constitution Plaza and the Connecticut River.
Photo | Steve Laschever
Interior flourishes of the towers' shared main lobby at 450 Columbus Blvd. in downtown Hartford.
PHOTO | Steve Laschever
State workers will soak up natural light and views, thanks to an abundance of windows (south tower’s 11th floor view).

450 Columbus Blvd. Vitals

• Two inter-connected steel-frame towers, totaling 580,443 gross square feet, above a five-story parking garage situated on 1.7 acres.

• Approx. 750 parking spaces in the below-ground garage; plus 2,290 spaces at the adjacent state-owned Morgan Street Garage.

• North tower has 15 stories

• South tower has 11 stories

• Towers' eventual occupants: Dept. of Administrative Services; Dept. of Education; Dept. of Consumer Protection; Dept. of Agriculture; Office of Early Childhood; Dept. of Revenue Services; Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities; and Office of Public Hearings

SOURCE: CT Dept. of Administrative Services

"Moving day'' has finally begun for the first of more than 2,100 state workers from several agencies relocating to the state's newest office building in downtown Hartford.

Starting July 8, the first 111 of the 545 full-time employees with the state Department of Revenue Services are settling into their fresh workspaces in the south tower of the two-building 450 Columbus Blvd. — formerly Connecticut River Plaza — overlooking Constitution Plaza, I-91 and the river.

Bought by the state for $34.5 million in Sept. 2013, 450 Columbus is intended as a relief valve to consolidate workers and state operations scattered in various buildings around the Capital City. Many of those sites either have leases that are expiring, or, in the case of DRS, are located in structures nearing the end of their useful lives and in need of extensive repairs/renovations.

On top of the purchase price, Connecticut taxpayers have invested another $101 million or so to design and install 450 Columbus' interior/exterior configurations and furnishings.

Except for their steel-masonry shells erected in 1983, and the high-tech Otis Elevator cars installed by the previous owner, just about everything inside and outside of both towers is new: Carpeting, paint, small but intuitive work cubicles with desks, chairs and storage "cubbies.'' New roofs, natural-gas powered boilers and chillers, too, were installed.

Workers surveyed

According to the state Department of Administrative Services' team overseeing 450 Columbus' conversion, state workers were surveyed for ideas/suggestions as to what they did/didn't want in their new workspaces.

What workers coveted most, DAS says it tried to accommodate despite budget constraints exacerbated by the state's fiscal woes.

Cubicles and workstations are oriented so they are next to or face the twin tower's window-laced exteriors. To provide an even "brighter, open feel,'' lots of glass panels separate halls and corridors.

The dozens of conference and meeting rooms have etched glass partitions to provide occupants with some measure of privacy.

Reserving one of the rooms illustrates the extensive integration of technology into the building for occupants' convenience. Using the Windows Outlook programs on their PCs, staffers can book a conference room and then that information is instantly shared with fellow office workers.

"Everything in this building is designed to be shared,'' said Doug Moore, DAS director of facilities management.

Moore is part of the DAS team that has spent more than two years shepherding the conversion at 450 Columbus. Ira Henowitz is project manager. DAS lawyer Erin O'Brien Choquette, who is a policy and legislative advisor, also participated.

New amenities

Workers, however, are more likely impressed by the new office building's amenities. On the plaza level is a 300-seat, full-service cafeteria that will be open to the public.

Starting July 8, DRS will relocate groups of its workers and their files in stages from 25 Sigourney St. each weekend until finished at the end of August, said DRS spokesman James A. Carson.

By next February, the most usable portions of the 580,443 square feet in both towers will house 2,155 workers, officials said.

Installing and synchronizing state workers' information-technology systems and support in the new towers is among the toughest chores in consolidating workers to 450 Columbus, officials said.

Almost all phone/fax exchanges and email addresses for agencies affected by the move will remain unchanged.

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