The two anchors of Hartford, Connecticut's downtown redevelopment project — the Connecticut Convention Center and the adjoining Marriott Hartford Downtown — are now open for business in the state capital, with the previously delayed headquarters hotel debuting at last.
With this potent new combo up and running, officials hope the city's strategic location halfway between New York and Boston, and its affordability compared with bigger cities, lure groups to Hartford.
Supporting the center, the 409-room Marriott opened on Aug. 25 at Adriaen's Landing, a mixed-use project located on the banks of the Connecticut River.
The first full-service hotel opened in Hartford in more than two decades, the Marriott has 13,500 square feet of meeting space, including the city's largest ballroom at 8,300 square feet.
The hotel also has a rooftop day spa, a trattoria-style restaurant with an expo kitchen, and the intimate Crush Lounge.
The Marriott is attached to the center, which opened in June. The $271 million center, the largest in New England outside Boston, includes a 145,000-square-foot exhibit hall, a 40,000-square-foot ballroom and 25,000 square feet of meeting space, including 14 breakout rooms. Total building size: 540,000 square feet.
The Connecticut Xpo for Business, the Center's opening event, drew 550 exhibitors; other groups using the space during its first week of operation were Capital Community College for a graduation ceremony, and Creative Memories, which held a convention for scrapbookers.
"We're primarily looking at education, health care, religious, and sports-minded groups," said Michael Van Parys, vice president of sales for the Greater Hartford Convention and Visitors Bureau.
With the belated opening of the Marriott — the hotel was scheduled to open along with the convention center, but suffered construction delays — Hartford also is looking for more short-term bookings to fill in the gaps.
Overall, occupancy has been running around 65 percent since the convention center opened, Van Parys said.
Hartford has about 1,500 rooms within walking distance of the convention center for meeting attendees. Those guestrooms include the new Marriott, as well as existing Hilton, Crowne Plaza and Sheraton facilities.
Van Parys said city officials hope to get national as well as regional business booked in the convention center; national groups of science and math teachers are already booked in the fall, he noted.