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.
“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.
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.
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.