Category Archives: Downtown Hartford

At Hartford’s Front Street: Visible Signs Of Apartment Construction

by Categorized: Apartments, Downtown Hartford, Hartford Redevelopment Date:

Almost all the apartment projects now underway in downtown Hartford are conversions of older commercial buildings, the largest being the former Bank of America tower of Main Street.

The Front Street Lofts as seen from the entertainment district. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com

The Front Street Lofts as seen from the entertainment district. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com

So it’s hard to see the progress.

One notable exception is the Front Street Lofts, a new structure just west of the entertainment district where Infinity Music Hall & Bistro will open at the end of next month.

Construction of the $33 million, 121-unit apartment building also will include 15,000 square feet of retail space. The five-story building will have a mix of studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units, all market-rate.

A rendering of Front Street Lofts. Courtesy of HB Nitkin Group

A rendering of Front Street Lofts. Courtesy of HB Nitkin Group.

Developer HB Nitkin Group says the apartments should be ready for occupancy by July, 2015. The rents are expected to range from $1,200-$1,300 to $2,000-$2,200, not including electricity or parking.

Financing includes $13.5 5million from the old Capital City Economic Development Authority, which oversaw the development of the convention center and the first phase of Front Street, plus numerous housing projects downtown.

Hotel Developer Stepping Over the Edge In Hartford — For Charity

by Categorized: Downtown Hartford, Uncategorized Date:

Waterford Group Chairman Len Wolman builds hotels from the ground up, but next week, he will see how it feels to go from the top down.

WOLMAN

WOLMAN

On Tuesday, Wolman will be among the 115 who are expected rappel down the side of the Hilton Hartford on Trumbull Street — one of three hotels in downtown Hartford owned and managed by Waterford — as a fundraiser for Norwalk-based Shatterproof.

Waterford is partnering on the event with Shatterproof, newly-formed, charitable organization that seeks to call attention to the problem of alcohol and drug addiction among children and young adults.

Wolman told me he urged his employees to participate in the rappelling event.

“I just didn’t see that I could ask them,” Wolman said. “I felt I needed to sign on myself.”

Wolman said he has no prior experience rappelling. He has, however, bungee jumped with his son off a bridge in New Zealand about five years ago, cajoled by his son into doing it. Wolman doesn’t know how far he jumped, but he thinks walking down the side of the 22-story Hilton — about 200 feet — may be more.

“As the time gets a little closer, I’m getting a little more nervous,” Wolman told me. “But I’m doing it.”

Wolman said he’s thought about his strategy for the 12-15 minute descent: “When I drop off the building, I’m going to look straight at the building when I go down.”

And how is Wolman with heights?

“It’s not my favorite,” Wolman said.

But Wolman said the challenge will be worth it, given what Shatterproof is trying to accomplish

Wolman said he has known Shatterproof’s founder and chief executive Gary Mendell for years. Mendell founded HEI Hotels & Resorts, also based in Norwalk. Mendell  left the day-to-day operations of HEI, where he was CEO, to focus full-time on building the nonprofit Shatterproof but still remains an owner of HEI.

Mendell was moved to found Shatterproof last year, after his son, Brian, died in 2011 after a struggle with substance abuse.

After his son’s death, Mendell told me he was shocked to learn the statistic that 80 percent of those who are addicted become so before their nineteenth birthday. And there was no major organization calling attention to the problem, he said.

Mendell said the name Shatterproof comes from another statistic: 350 people a day in the United States die from alcohol poisoning or drug addiction, shattering their families, he said.

Mendell said he chose rappelling rather than the more typical walks, runs or bicycle rides to make a dramatic statement as the nonprofit launched.

On Tuesday, there will be three ropes down the facade of Hilton for event, running from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. As of late Friday, there were 9 slots left. To participate, there is a $25 entrance fee, plus the requirement to raise at least $1,000 in pledges.

The event is run by a professional company, Over the Edge, which also provides training.

Hartford is the seventh location to host a Shatterproof rappelling event this year. Wolman and Mendell will go down the building at 9 a.m.

“This disease is such a dire disease,” Wolman said. “It’s so critical that something get done.”

City Still Pushing For Supermarket In Downtown Hartford

by Categorized: Downtown Hartford, Downtown North, Hartford Redevelopment Date:

The city of Hartford says it remains committed to securing a supermarket for the downtown area, after a plan for a grocery store collapsed this week because a minor league ballpark may be built nearby.

“We all want to see the market,” Thomas E. Deller, the city’s director of development services, told leaders of the city’s neighborhood revitalization zones Thursday night. “It’s important for us to get a supermarket downtown and, if possible, in Downtown North. We would really like that to happen.”

After nearly two years of work, the Hartford Community Loan Fund this week pulled the plug on its plans for a full-service supermarket that would have been part of a larger, mixed-use development at 1212 Main St., sometimes referred to as “12B.”

Both the ballpark and the supermarket targeted Downtown North, or “DoNo,” a barren, redevelopment area just north of downtown Hartford.

The loan fund, a community revitalization organization, had strong interest from the operator of a ShopRite for the site. The operator, Paul Tornaquindici, did not believe the ballpark, proposed next door, at 1214 Main St., would be compatible with the store, Fowler said.

Deller told the NRZ leaders at their monthly meeting Thursday that there were still many unanswered questions about the loan fund’s plan.

“The proposal for 12B, 1212 Main St., [is] one that has been out there a while,” Deller said. “There hadn’t been a clear developer for the site. There hadn’t been a clear proposal for the site and clear economics to show the operator could actually rent the site and operate a market there.”

On Friday, Rex Fowler, the loan fund’s executive director, defended the loan fund’s work on the project, saying it did not come to the table unprepared.

Fowler said the loan fund:

      • Completed a detailed market study confirming the economic viability of such a full-service supermarket for the Downtown North redevelopment area
      • Identified an experienced market operator with a strong commitment to serving all members of the Hartford community.
      • Identified of a highly qualified, experienced community developer with strong access to capital, experience with similar projects across the country, and interest in a role in implementation of the Downtown North Master Plan as completed by the City in December, 2013.
      • Identified local and national sources of financing for the project.

“HCLF is proud of the work that our staff and our partners have contributed to this project,” Fowler said.

The supermarket, as envisioned by the loan fund, would have served both downtown and the city’s North End neighborhoods. Downtown North was an ideal location because it was in the middle of a “food desert” with few options for purchasing groceries.

Deller said he believes a ballpark and a supermarket can thrive side-by-side. He cited calls from developers since the announcement of the ballpark proposal two weeks ago, some saying the area would work well for a supermarket.

Deller also said a supermarket opened near the Nationals Stadium in Washington, D.C., next where housing is being built. Housing also is a major, planned component for Downtown North.

“The reason why I bring this up is to show that they are not mutually exclusive,” Deller said. “They can work together. They can operate together.”

Fowler said he believes Hartford Mayor Pedro E. Segarra and city council members are committed to taking steps to ease the food desert that affects a quarter of city residents and, to improve access to healthy and affordable foods.

“We continue to be eager to assist our City leaders in their efforts toward this objective in any way possible,” Fowler said.

 

 

 

 

 

Development Eludes Small Patch Of Hartford Parking Known as ’12B’

by Categorized: Downtown Hartford, Hartford Redevelopment Date:

The small patch of urban surface parking in downtown Hartford at the corner of Main and Morgan streets — known as 12B — once again caught headlines, this time as a site considered for a proposed $60 million ballpark for the New Britain Rock Cats.

The city ultimately chose a neighboring site, adding another project to a list of proposals for 12B that never became reality.

But where exactly is 12B? I asked three different people after a press conference on the stadium, and I got three different answers.

So I went to City Clerk John Bazzano, and he pulled out the maps for me. The parcel, he noted, is the parking lot that backs up the Radisson Hotel, formerly the Crowne Plaza.

Here is the map:

The parcel outlined in yellow is the proposed minor league baseball stadium. The parcel just to the south across Trumbull Street is 12B. Map courtesy of the City of Hartford.

The parcel outlined in yellow is the proposed minor league baseball stadium. The parcel just to the south across Trumbull Street is 12B. Map courtesy of the City of Hartford.

The 12B parcel was once described as the Charlie Brown of Hartford development sites. In the past 15 years, there have been a half-dozen proposals, none of them becoming reality:

  • 2004: WFSB, Channel 3 abandons plans to build a broadcast studio on the site, saying it is too small to accommodate the stations needs. WFSB eventually moves out of Constitution Plaza and out of Hartford, relocating to Rocky Hill.
  • 2000: Mayor Michael P. peters considers the site for a $20 million minor league baseball stadium.
  • 1998: City council studies site for a new city hall.
  • 1997: Officials consider site for new convention center and $374 million stadium for the New England Patriots. Site loses out to 30-acre Adriaen’s Landing near riverfront. Convention Center built but Patriots do not leave Massachusetts.
  • 1995: With the Hartford Civic Center, now XL Center, aging, 12B is considered for a 40,000-seat domed arena to become new home of UConn men’s basketball, the Hartford Whalers and others.
  • 1993: Businessman Francis W. Murray and the state fail to lure the Patriots to 12B, the chosen site for a 70,000-seat, $252 million open-air stadium.

 

The downtown Hartford parcel known as 12B. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com.

The downtown Hartford parcel known as 12B from across Morgan Street. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Stylish Redo At Hartford Residence Inn, But What Style Is It?

by Categorized: Downtown Hartford, Hartford Redevelopment Date:

A $3-million plus renovation of The Residence Inn by Marriott in downtown Hartford’s Richardson Building includes a makeover of the lobby and suites in cool grays, vibrant turquoise and pops of orange.

Geometric shapes abound and some of the furniture looks to be a twist on mid-century modern.

But what is the style of the redo?

The lobby of the renovated Residence Inn by Marriott in downtown Hartford. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com

The lobby of the renovated Residence Inn by Marriott in downtown Hartford. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com

Hotel employees, at a reception Wednesday night marking the renovations, took a stab: contemporary, but, no, that sounds, too drab; maybe, Marriott Modern because the hospitality company mandates the colors but leaves furniture and other choices to each hotel.

Finally, Mayor Pedro E. Segarra, a speaker at the festivities, finally observed: “It’s a cross between South Beach and L.A.”

No matter the style, the renovations are the second makeover since the upper-floors of the historic brownstone Richardson Building on Main Street were converted from apartments to 120 extended-stay suites in the late 1990s at a cost of $13.5 million. The Residence Inn opened in 2000.

“I didn’t think what we had previously was dated or shabby, but now that it is done, it is so dramatic,”  Marc S. Levine, one of the owners, told me.

Director of Sales Lisa McIntyre in one of the renovated suites. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com.

Director of Sales Lisa McIntyre in one of the renovated suites. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com.

Levine said Marriott requires renovations every six years for hotels bearing its flag, or the property risks losing the right to use the Marriott name.

Len Wolman, chairman and chief executive of The Waterford Group, said the Residence Inn typically has an occupancy around 75 percent, higher than most city hotels. He notes that 40 percent of guests are “extended stay,” meaning five days or longer.

Waterford has an ownership stake in the hotel and also manages it.

The renovations inside stand in sharp contrast to the 138-year old Romanesque Revival stone facade of the exterior. The style is influenced by medieval European architecture, mostly of the 10th and 11th centuries, and is characterized by heavy-walled masonry construction, often of roughly cut stone.

Henry Hobson Richardson, a well-known 19th-century architect, designed the building at 942 Main St.  The facade features three layers of arches that grow smaller and more numerous with each horizontal level.

The exterior of the historic Richardson Building in downtown Hartford. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com.

The exterior of the historic Richardson Building in downtown Hartford. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com.

When department stores dominated this area of Main Street, the building was home to Brown, Thomson & Co. Today, City Steam has been a longtime, street-level tenant and Hartford Stage uses a portion of the building for rehearsal space.

All the suites have new granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances, accent walls and new furnishings. Mid-week rates range from $279 to $299 a night, but decline with longer stays, Lisa McIntyre, director of sales, told me.

“With all the things happening in Hartford, we should be getting a refresh, too,” Levine told me.

 

 

Parking Garage Could Figure In Future Expansion of Hartford’s XL Center

by Categorized: Downtown Hartford, XL Center Date:

The sale of the city-owned parking garage on Church Street downtown Hartford would fill a gaping hole in the Hartford municipal budget, but it would do something else, too: foster planning for a potential, future expansion of the XL Center.

The Capital Region Development Authority plans to purchase the Church Street garage from the city.  Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com

The Capital Region Development Authority plans to purchase from the city the Church Street garage, at left, across from the XL Center. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com

“The city’s preference is to keep [the XL Center] in its current location,” Michael W. Freimuth, executive director of the Capital Region Development Authority, told me. “If we can reboot the existing building, we are going to need some elbow room. And we can only go north.”

CRDA, which oversees the operations of the XL Center, would purchase the 1,300-space garage across Church Street for an estimated $14 million, pending an appraisal and other approvals.

The potential expansion is one alternative for dealing with the aging arena beyond the current, $35 million in renovations now underway. The current renovations are intended to make the arena viable for another decade.

There also have been discussions about eventually building a new arena, though that could cost $400 million-plus. That option could also move the arena out of the heart of downtown Hartford.

If the CRDA purchases the garage, its operations would be merged with the XL, ultimately bringing more revenue to the XL’s bottom line, Freimuth said.

(The garage now in the Hartford 21 complex, often used by patrons at XL Center events, is owned by Northland Investment Corp.)

Currently, the garage brings in about $2 million a year, with expenses running between $800,000 and $1 million. The garage, constructed in 1954, also is in need of repairs and upgrades, Freimuth said.

In the next few years, parking at garage could be used in promotions to boost event attendance  at the XL Center. Parking, for instance, could be included in the price of the ticket, Freimuth said.

The garage purchase would be paid for by state bonding. In the last session of the General Assembly, $30 million was budgeted for CRDA projects. If an expansion of the XL across Church Street does not come to pass, the garage could eventually be sold back to the city, Freimuth said.

In acquiring the garage, the CRDA would honor existing leases in the parking garage, including  spaces reserved for the nearby Hilton.

While the Church Street parking garage deal is analyzed, the CRDA also is beginning to focus on the long-term options for the XL Center. In the next few weeks, the CRDA will seek a consultant to determine what the “next-generation” of arena will be like and whether the existing XL Center could meet those requirements.

The cost for such a transformation compared with constructing a new arena also will be part of the analysis, Freimuth said.

Hartford Club’s Home May Be Sold In Foreclosure Auction

by Categorized: Downtown Hartford, Foreclosure Sales Date:

The Hartford Club, once the gathering place for city’s elite and decision makers, faces the loss of its longtime home on Prospect Street in a foreclosure auction, court documents show.

The Hartford Club could lose its home to a forelcosure sale. Credit: John Phelan/Wikimedia Commons

The Hartford Club on Prospect Street in downtown Hartford could lose its home to a foreclosure sale. Credit: John Phelan/Wikimedia Commons

The club, founded in 1873, filed an appeal Friday of a Hartford Superior Court judge’s order, issued in January, ordering the property at 46 Prospect Street, the club’s home since 1904. be sold in a foreclosure auction. The auction is scheduled for June 28, court record show.

The foreclosure was first filed last June. The property has $1.4 million in mortgage debt, but the foreclosure deals with a $997,000 mortgage approved in 2009 by the former Connecticut Bank and Trust Co., which was acquired by Berkshire Bank in 2012.

Court documents show that a payment on the mortgage had not been made since October, 2012.

John Larson, an attorney for The Hartford Club, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment this morning.

Brien Beakey, president of the club’s board of governors, did not immediately respond to a call.

Connecticut Office Of Florida Law Firm Relocates To Hartford

by Categorized: Downtown Hartford, Hartford Redevelopment Date:

The Connecticut office of a Florida-based law firm has relocated from Simsbury to downtown Hartford, it was announced this morning.

The firm, Tampa-based Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, has moved into the One State Street tower. A spokeswoman told me the firm has leased 15,000 square feet for 10 years and is relocating 21 employees — a dozen attorneys and 9 support staffers.

Spokeswoman Kate Barth said the space will accommodate future expansion in Hartford.

In addition to Connecticut, the firm has offices in Florida, Georgia, New York and Washington D.C. According to its web site, the firm has more than 370 attorneys and focuses on litigation practice. The firm specializes in class action, national trial practice, white collar representation.

The firm was created in a merger last fall of two firms, Carlton Fields and Jorden Burt.

Today’s announcement comes a month after accounting firm Cohn Reznick confirmed that it was also relocating from the suburbs to downtown Hartford. Cohn Reznick will consolidate offices in Glastonbury and Farmington into space at Metro Center on Church Street.

Cicchetti

Cicchetti

Anthony Cicchetti, managing shareholder of the Simsbury office, said in a release that the firm’s concentration in the insurance and financial services industries made the move to Hartford “a very natural and important step for us.”

“We are also excited about Hartford’s resurgence as a corporate center,” Cicchetti said. “We are pleased to be able to contribute to the growth and new vitality of Hartford’s central business district.”

Hartford Accounting Firm Gets Accustomed to Life 24 Stories Up

by Categorized: Downtown Hartford Date:

For a quarter century, employees of Whittlesey & Hadley looked up at the downtown Hartford towers from their offices in a three-story building on Charter Oak Avenue.

Drew Andrews, managing partner of Whittlesey & Hadley, and the view from the 24th floor. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com

Drew Andrews, managing partner of Whittlesey & Hadley, and the view from the 24th floor. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com

Now, workers at the accounting firm are getting accustomed to the view from 24  stories up.

In late December, the firm moved into the 280 Trumbull office tower after a search of space in both the city and the suburbs. (Their search included Metro Center, a block to the west, space that has subsequently been leased by another accounting firm, CohnReznick.)

Managing partner Drew Andrews told me it took some time getting used to being up in a tower, and not just for the views.

The firm is now all on one floor, rather than three. While that has its clear benefits — far less “up and down,” catching up with colleagues can be a bit more of a challenge.

For instance, when Andrews wanted to see tax partner Dave Zubrow back on Charter Oak, Andrews would just walk up a flight of stairs. Zubrow’s office was right above Andrews’.

Now, Zubrow’s office is diagonally at the farthest end of the 25,000-square-foot space at 280 Trumbull.

“I have to call him and make sure he’s at his desk before I see him,” Andrews said. “It’s like making an appointment.”

Andrews said he is looking forward to warmer weather to see the benefits of now being in the heart of downtown and the firm’s employees being able to walk to more appointments in the city.