CIGNA Corp.'s recent announcement that it has chosen several firms to carry out a massive redevelopment project on its Bloomfield campus and that work will commence in the first half of this year comes as bleak news to those who wished better for the property.
The insurer has refused to back down from its plans to build single-family homes, apartments, new office buildings, a golf course, shops and a hotel and conference center on the 600-acre site. Some critics contend that the company's plan is pedestrian, just another cookie-cutter housing-and-golf-course development.
CIGNA's master plan calls for the demolition of two landmark office buildings that house its health insurance group -- the Wilde and North buildings -- and the destruction of a historically significant suburban office park, the first of its kind in post-World War II America. Employees who now work in the architecturally renowned buildings would be transferred to new offices on the south part of the campus.
Preservationists had faint hopes that developers and investors could be found who could win CIGNA's agreement to preserve the office-park concept and save the Wilde and North buildings, designed by Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, a master of the international style. That appears to be a vain hope.
CIGNA seems to have left the door open to preservation of the Wilde Building alone, however -- if a proposal suitable to the company is drawn that incorporates the huge modernist structure into the company's existing development plan.
The company has not yet selected a developer for the hotel and conference center, which would be located on the Wilde Building site. ``We're still entertaining proposals for the hotel and conference center, which may or may not contain a component for the Wilde Building,'' a spokesman for CIGNA said last month. There's time, he noted, because the company will continue to occupy the building until the replacement space is ready for occupancy in four or five years.
In June, the National Trust for Historic Preservation called the CIGNA campus ``a modern architectural icon'' and designated it one of ``America's 11 Most Endangered Places.'' The Trust, a guardian of America's treasures, is working with CIGNA to find a reuse plan for the Wilde Building.
It would be a stain on CIGNA's reputation if the company were to preside over the demolition of a national treasure. The company must make a priority of saving the Wilde Building.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times