The Hartford Financial Services Group said Wednesday it will consolidate hundreds of employees from its Windsor campus to its downtown Hartford headquarters later this year and is exploring a potential sale of the complex it constructed for $146 million.
The property-casualty insurance giant said it will relocate “fewer than 500 Windsor-based employees” to Hartford — many of whom have been working remotely since the onset of the pandemic and continue to do so. Those who split time between home and the office will report to Hartford, the insurer said.
Matthew Sturdevant, a spokesman for The Hartford, said the decision was part of an on-going review of its needs for office space in Connecticut.
“As we consider our real estate portfolio, we continue to maintain a strong presence in the city of Hartford, where we have been headquartered for more than 210 years,” Sturdevant said, in a statement.
The consolidation of The Hartford’s offices is fresh evidence of how the pandemic accelerated the reshaping of just how much office space employers — especially large corporate ones like The Hartford — need in the post-Covid era.
“It’s what cities all over the U.S. are seeing: a reassessment of real estate portfolios,” said David Griggs, chief executive of the MetroHartford Alliance, the region’s chamber of commerce, said Wednesday. “Will we see more of this? Yeah. Some companies were even doing it before the pandemic.”
The Hartford’s Windsor campus, at the corner of Day Hill Road and Blue Hills Avenue Extension, encompasses about 450,000 square feet, with about a third already leased by other tenants that include Talcott Resolution, Waste Management and Aflac.
With the relocation of its employees, The Hartford also is considering — alongside a possible sale — leasing the 250,000 square feet that had been occupied by its employees, The Hartford said.
Griggs said the post-Covid consolidations generally are not cutting deeply into company workforces but what they are doing is shedding large blocks of office space. In The Hartford’s case, Windsor gets dinged by the loss of jobs, but the employment is preserved in the region, Griggs said.
While that is good for employment, it creates the problem of what to do with the office space, a dilemma that must be solved on a regional basis, not in Hartford alone or in the surrounding suburbs, Griggs said.
“We don’t have a lot of buildings with multiple income streams, so it puts them in a real pickle, and it’s up to everybody, really, to come up with solutions that will work and allow these buildings to reinvent themselves,” Griggs said.
Years before the pandemic, The Hartford was already taking a hard look at its office needs. In 2015, The Hartford sold its 172-acre suburban campus in Simsbury, including 641,000 square feet of office space in multiple buildings. The massive complex was later demolished for redevelopment.
Even earlier, in 2010, Hartford-based health insurer Aetna, Inc., now owned by CVS Health Corp., headquartered in Woonsocket, R.I.. decided to demolish its sprawling 1.3 million-square-foot corporate, built in the early 1980s. The 260 acres was later sold for redevelopment.
The consolidations that came well before the pandemic were driven by employers needing less space as technology evolved and working from home started gaining momentum. Remote work was embraced during the pandemic, and experts say it is likely to remain permanently on the business landscape.
On Wednesday, the city of Hartford welcomed the prospects of more employees coming to work in the city, but acknowledged more unsettled times may be ahead as employers continue to evaluate their office space needs.
“The Hartford has long been a vital part of the Hartford community and a tremendous partner in our work to build a stronger, more vibrant city,” Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said, in a statement Wednesday. “As they and so many other companies make post-COVID adjustments to their workspaces, we are excited to welcome additional employees to The Hartford’s downtown headquarters.”
Kenneth R. Gosselin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.