HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Mayor Luke Bronin says he sees the University of Connecticut's new downtown satellite campus as much more than an institution of higher learning.
The buildings, which sit between the Front Street riverfront entertainment district and the Wadsworth Atheneum art museum on Main Street, are a major piece in the ongoing effort to revitalize the city, he said.
"The campus is going to connect parts of Hartford that have been disconnected for many years, and I think it's a critical piece of the puzzle to making our city the vibrant, active downtown that we all want it to be," said Bronin, a Democrat.
About 2,300 UConn students and 300 full-time faculty members are scheduled to begin classes on Monday in the state's capital city, which has about 125,000 residents.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Republican, and University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst on Wednesday cut a ribbon to open the campus, which was relocated from West Hartford at a cost of about $140 million.
Much of that money was spent on a major renovation and five-story addition to the historic centerpiece building that once housed the Hartford Times newspaper.
The building has an exterior courtyard open to the public, and retail stores are planned at street level. A bookstore and coffee shop have already opened across the street.
Besides the 160,000-square-foot (14,900-square-meter) anchor building, the campus includes a smaller building to house UConn's School of Social Work and about 19,200 square feet (1,800 square meters) in the Hartford Public Library in partnership with that organization.
UConn already uses a nearby building for its Graduate Business Learning Center.
Herbst called the campus a "living, breathing institution at the core of this city."
"It will be part of the backbone of Hartford: a place of learning, engagement and discovery and a vibrant part of this neighborhood and the capital city as a whole," she said.
Nearby restaurants, shops and other businesses are preparing to accept Husky Bucks, part of a university-wide debit card system.
The state also this month began a new hourly bus service linking Hartford with UConn's main campus in Storrs.
Wednesday's ribbon cutting also comes just months after the city opened a new 6,000-seat minor league baseball stadium nearby.
"We understand that when our cities thrive, our state will thrive again," Malloy said.