A Sign Of Bold Ideas On One Downtown Hartford Corner

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:

The 12-foot “for sale” sign on the parking lot at Ann Uccello and Asylum streets in downtown Hartford is big and bold, and the same can be said about Paul Khakshouri’s ideas for this corner of the city.

His half-acre parking lot, he told me, is the perfect spot for an apartment tower, with as many as 800 apartments and a million square feet. (Yes, 800. That’s more than three times the number in Hartford 21 just up the street.) The apartments, Khakshouri says, are just the revitalizing spark downtown needs and would attract national retailers back to the city.

Manhattan real estate investor Paul Krakshouri has a bold development vision for this corner of downtown Hartford. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com

Manhattan real estate investor Paul Khakshouri has a bold development vision for this corner of downtown Hartford. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com

“You might get a Gap or a Banana Republic,” Khakshouri said. “That’s what you need. This will immediately help retail from Trumbull Street to the train station.”

He adds, “This would put people on the street. They would spend money.”

If anything, Khakshouri is passionate about his vision. But he’s only had preliminary discussions with the city and hasn’t submitted any formal plans. He likely would need a developer for the apartments and then a financing package would have to be assembled. The apartment tower could cost as much as $200 million, he says.

Khakshouri said it will be key to develop a “partnership” with the city, though the details are still to be developed, he told me.

Thomas E. Deller, the city’s chief development official, told me he has talked with Khakshouri about his ideas. Deller told me he intends to meet with Khakshouri again.

A Manhattan real estate investor, Khakshouri has not fared as well in forays into the organic coffee and high-speed Internet businesses. Those ventures did not pan out, he said.

In Hartford, there are already hundreds of apartments projects in various stages of approval and financing throughout the city, and demand for them has yet to be tested.

He waves away that concern: “I’ve already had five phone calls from kids who want to know when these apartments will be ready.”

Khakshouri is hardly new to Hartford. Ever since the late 1990s, he has been a partner in Morgan Reed Group, which bought up nearly two dozen properties in the city, mostly in and around Union Station.

Long sealed off doors and windows on the facade of Homewood Suites on Asylum Street would be uncovered in plans by Krakshouri as they were when the building was the Bond Hotel. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com

Long sealed off doors and windows on the facade of Homewood Suites on Asylum Street would be uncovered in plans by Khakshouri as they were when the building was the Bond Hotel. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com

Khakshouri was essentially a silent partner in those days, not spending much more than a few days in Hartford each year. But now, Khakshouri is talking — and talking a lot.

“You need to make an impact,” he says.

He did decline to have his photo taken for this post.

Last November, Khakshouri bought out his partners’ interest in both the parking lot and  Homewood Suites — the redeveloped Bond Hotel — and is now working on gaining control of the Holiday Inn near Union Station.

See a photo gallery of the former Bond Hotel property.

He’s also moved from Manhattan, where he spent years investing in commercial real estate, to an apartment in Hartford to focus on the projects in the city.

His ideas don’t stop at the parking lot. He wants to reconfigure the Homewood Suites entrance to bring back the original lobby of the Bond and uncover long sealed up windows and doors along Asylum. Khakshouri wants to reopen rooms with vaulted ceilings once used for restaurants but now have been relegated to storage space.

Khakshouri said he envisions a bowling alley in an annex to the hotel. (Yes, a bowling alley.) He maintains he’s had interest for potential tournaments there.

Khakshouri told me he was born in Iran but left for Europe as a toddler and was educated at an English boarding school. He moved to the United States with his family at 15 and later graduated from St. John’s University with a degree in accounting, he said.

This cocktail reception area at Homewood would become the main lobby of the hotel, as it once was. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com

This cocktail reception area at Homewood would become the main lobby of the hotel, as it once was. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com

He worked in accounting for five years but found his real love: investing in commercial real estate. Khakshouri started with small buildings in Manhattan and moved on to larger ones. The 42-story apartment building on his sign in Hartford was one he once owned, he said.

Although Khakshouri also dabbled in other businesses, he never found the success he found in real estate.

“For what I want to do here, I’m well suited to do,” Krakshouri said.

The Courant is using Facebook comments on stories. To comment on courant.com articles, sign into Facebook and enter your comment in the field below. Comments will appear in your Facebook News Feed unless you choose otherwise. To report spam or abuse, click the X next to the comment. For guidelines on commenting, click here.

21 thoughts on “A Sign Of Bold Ideas On One Downtown Hartford Corner

  1. Denny

    Sounds like the guy that proposed an energy efficient building in the hole in constitution plaza left by the channel 3 broadcast house. Good luck to him but he doesn’t deserve more news than this article until he stops speculating.

  2. DR

    I agree with Denny. Hartford has been subject to decades of bold ideas and grand schemes – a constant stream of proposals to remake an otherwise dead and decaying city. Yet for decades now, they have been shown to be nothing but hype. Few plans materialize and the ones that do don’t have any real impact. The city continues to be a dead-man’s zone.

  3. J L

    I am among those who would be interested in living in Mr. Khakshouri’s apartment tower. One of my first recommendations would be to make the building non-smoking or, at a minimum, to designate certain floors as non-smoking. Hartford 21, where I currently live, does not have a policy in this regard, and the smoke from my neighbor’s apartment filters out into the hallway, and sometimes into my apartment. Trumbull on the Park has wisely instituted a non-smoking policy, and I will be looking to move there or to another such building downtown as soon as an apartment becomes available. Trumbull on the Park is completely full, signaling high levels of demand for more apartment space, which a new building such as the one envisioned by Mr. Khakshouri could help to fill.

  4. MG

    Notice how there’s ALWAYS the suburban moron negative nancy comments on stuff like this? Let it play out before you make dumb remarks, no one is going to raise your precious taxes for this or take away your ranch house or your guns. RELAX

  5. DR

    @MG. Who is talking about the suburbs, taxes, ranch houses or guns??? Did you comment to the right article?

  6. mc

    Unless someone can convince GE to move from Fairfield, Hartford will never grow to be a real city again. Companies have been merging and downsizing for years and nobody in their right mind would move a company to Hartford. A large company could make an impact, like GE or ESPN, but they are too settled and too smart. It is interesting to watch the parade of fools though. Lawrence Gottesdiener, Howard Baldwin, Paul Khakshouri. As much as I have lost confidence in Hartford, I still hold hopes. Good luck.

    1. J L

      You’re a little confused, mc, about the factors underlying real estate development and corporate relocation decisions. If it was ever true that a single company headquarters (and where does GE come from?) unilaterally determined the vibrancy of a neighborhood, that is certainly no longer the case. Having a healthy mix of office, residential and retail uses is most important, and the imbalance in Hartford stems from a lack of residential (not office) product. There are currently more than 35,000 people working but only 1,800 people living downtown. The project proposed in this article would help to address this imbalance. As Jane Jacobs noted decades ago in New York, the financial district there was moribund at night specifically because office uses overwhelmed all others, whereas midtown Manhattan benefited from a healthy mix of residential, office and retail. One of the primary reasons lower Manhattan has more recently became a more desirable office destination is that, gradually, a more robust residential neighborhood has taken form there. Whether in New York, Chicago, St. Louis or Providence, growth in downtown populations has stimulated more interest from companies looking to locate near the educated young workers attracted to living in pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods close to cultural and educational resources. As a result, these companies have greater success in their recruitment and retention efforts, and their employees tend to be more productive and to demonstrate higher levels of creativity (as demonstrated by studies showing higher levels of patenting activity and other forms of productivity in denser environments). In the cycle described above, the property type that drives all others is residential. For that reason, and because residential occupancy rates are currently below 5% in downtown Hartford, reflecting high levels of existing demand, proposals to develop new apartment buildings there should be met with enthusiasm, not misplaced derision.

      1. J L

        Correction: Residential vacancy (not occupancy) rates are below 5%, i.e. apartment buildings are more than 95% occupied.

        1. J L

          I always appreciate positive comments, and it’s good to know that other people can see the positive things happening in Hartford :)

      2. mc

        I can appreciate what you say, but I have been following the city since about 1985. I remember all the interest when Hartford had a 7% office vacancy rate. The nice signs with large beautiful building never came to fruition. Since then I have seen the Whalers leave, the Mall empty out, the Patriots pretend to come, MetLife and Cigna leave, Front Street downsized, corporate mergers, Gottisdiener, Baldwin, The Ct. Whale, a grocery store come and go, etc. Yes, maybe Hartford can turn it around someday, but nobody will live there except kids and low income families because the schools are terrible, the city is dangerous and quite frankly, the city is dead. I don’t care how positive people can pretend to be, the facts are the city needs some corporate interest. Have you seen the cranes in Stamford? Do you know how many companies have moved in before all these condos started to grow? Nestle, Wyndham, UBS, RBS, Charter, NBC, The NHL Network,etc. Thousands of jobs. Can you name one single NEW job in Hartford from a new company in the past 20 years?

        1. J L

          Travelers, which has five times as many employees in the city as MetLife ever had, expanded in the property casualty area after selling its life insurance division to MetLife, more than compensating for the latter’s downsizing. Meanwhile, the companies moving to or expanding in downtown Hartford include CareCentrix, the Backnine golf network, Northeast Utilities, GlobeOp Financial Services, S.H. Smith, LAZ, the BL Companies and Cornerstone Real Estate Advisors. New retail entrants include Panera Bread, Infinity Live, Capital Grille, Laetus, and Spotlight Theatres. You asked us to name one new job created in the last 20 years, and those named above represent several hundred jobs created in the past year alone. UBS, by the way, is trying to relocate from Stamford back to New York.

          Speaking of the city where you claim to live, it is among my favorite places to visit, but its success comes not from people like you, who move to where all the hard work has already been done, but from the people who put in tireless effort when the city needed it most (think Jane Jacobs during the 1960s, when New York wasn’t in such great shape, and people like Robert Moses tried to use its temporary troubles as an excuse to do lasting damage in the form of deleterious highway construction that would have bisected neighborhoods like Greenwich Village with elevated roadways). The many people trying to steer Hartford in the right direction after many years of similar (and unfortunately more successful) pressures form a network of committed and engaged individuals who will actually have an influence on the city where they live.

  7. MG

    In the future, I’m going to try and keep my comments more civil. Just can’t stand the anti-Hartford, anti-city comments that blast out at anything that might be positive in our community.

    1. DR

      Most of the comments are anti-Hartford, not anti-city. Many people (including the suburbanites so often derided on here) love cities and would like to live in one, if there was a decent one in this area…

    2. mc

      It is just people being honest. It is hard to watch Hartford sputter when you care about it. These signs once graced every parking lot in Hartford and only a couple turned into buildings and that was in a different corporate environment. Over 30% vacancy is the sign of an unhealthy city. Shoot, over 100,000 people and no movie theater or grocery store.

      1. Frankie

        MC you dope there are movie theaters at Front St and on New Park Ave. And there are many grocery stores in Hartford. In my neighborhood alone I have a Super Stop and Shop on New Park. There is Apple Tree, Bjs, Aldi, Walmart and Price Right in my vicinity as well. And for my Italian specialties I go to D&D Market on Franklin Ave. At least try to know what you are talking about before posting.

        1. Patrick

          Also Frankie, right near the Blue Hills is the Copaco Plaza with Stop & Shop, Lowes, etc.
          MC, I think one of the reasons Hartford doesn’t have more large suburban-sized grocery stores & plazas is that it is a fully built out city, so for a developer to find at 7+ acres of undeveloped land is pretty difficult. Same situation in Boston(and many other older northeastern cities), only one Stop & Shop there and it’s a city of well over half a million people.

  8. SY

    I hope this happened… will look great for downtown and skyline. I wanna see 600-700 ft tower! :)

    1. mc

      I live in a 46 story building in NYC. I often chuckle to myself that this would be the tallest building in the state of Connecticut! In NYC, it is completely insignificant.

Comments are closed.