It's about time.
On Monday, Hartford finally told Centerplan Construction Co. — the developer chosen to build the baseball stadium that became Dunkin' Donuts Park — that it would not be taking part in the development of the surrounding neighborhood.
There's no doubt that Centerplan will sue the city over the termination of its Master Development Agreement. That deal, inked by former Mayor Pedro Segarra's administration, gave Centerplan exclusive rights to build what was anticipated as a $300 million mixed-use development in the Downtown North neighborhood.
But Mayor Luke Bronin was right to force Centerplan off the wider project, litigation be damned. If Centerplan violated the deal by failing to deliver a baseball stadium on time and on budget, as promised, then it shouldn't be able to get anywhere near the rest of the property — and it shouldn't be able to squat on it while the legal battles drag on.
The move clears the way for the city to entertain offers from other developers on what promises to be a very lucrative 16-acre parcel — a project that needs to proceed, and quickly, for the city's investment in the stadium to see its promised returns.
Mr. Bronin told The Courant that other developers have expressed interest, and he said Wednesday that the city would be issuing a request for proposals within a month. That’s terrific news.
The city should strongly consider looking for a developer that already has a footprint in Hartford, a resident who will have more invested than a developer who just swoops in for the paycheck. The Downtown North project is about building the whole city, its economy, spirit and reputation — not only some buildings.
Maybe, once the dust settles, we will be able to look back on this tumultuous period in Hartford's history as the moment that cleared the way for the future.