Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.”

Hartford’s XL Center Launches Video Series On Renovations

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Global Spectrum, which operates Hartford’s XL Center, has launched the first of planned weekly updates on the $35 million renovations at the arena.

Here is the first installment with Peter Stevens, president of JCJ Architecture and Robert Saint, director of construction services for the Capital Region Development Authority:

Future videos and more photographs of the renovations can be found here: www.XLCenter.com/Chapter40

Hartford Office Tower Goes Up For Auction Next Month

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CityPlace II — the 18-story, office tower in downtown Hartford — is being put up for auction in late August, nearly two years after it was lost to foreclosure, according to a listing on auction.com.

The CityPlace II tower, at left, is going up for auction. File photo by Michael McAndrews/mmcandrews@courant.com

The CityPlace II tower, at left, is going up for auction. File photo by Michael McAndrews/mmcandrews@courant.com

The starting bid for the Asylum Street building is $6.5 million for the online auction, which begins August 25.

The 300,000-square-foot structure, built in 1989, is separate from the larger, 38-story CityPlace I, now called the United Health Care Center. However, the two towers share a common lobby and other amenities.

CityPlace II’s , whose tenant roster includes Bank of America, Webster Bank, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, has a 35-percent vacancy rate.

The tower was previously owned by Northland Investment Corp., which lost the property  in 2012, nearly three years after it first sank into foreclosure. LNR Partners, the mortgage servicer pursuing the foreclosure, took over the property.

Northland bought CityPlace II in 1999 for $33 million.

 

 

 

Plans Collapse For Hartford Museum Honoring Poet

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Wallace Stevens’ poetry is often difficult for the novice reader, but the reason why the poet’s Hartford home probably won’t become a museum isn’t: a major investor has pulled out of the project.

Alison Johnson, who led the five-member investor group, confirmed Thursday plans to turn Stevens’ home on Westerly Terrace into a modest museum honoring the poet had been shelved and weren’t likely to be revived.

“I had a call on Monday morning from one of the five consortium members, who told me that he was very sorry to say that he was withdrawing his offer to put up $100,000 as one of the investors in the consortium,” Johnson told me, in  an email.

The former home of poet Wallace Stevens is back on the market. Photo Credit: Paula Fahy Ostop, William Raveis,

The former home of poet Wallace Stevens is back on the market. Photo Credit: Paula Fahy Ostop, William Raveis,

Further, “He said that he had also changed his mind about letting the projected house museum use his collection of Wallace Stevens’ furniture and paintings,” Johnson said.

The group had agreed to purchase the property July 1 at the asking price of $489,900.

Johnson declined to identify the investor. But previously, Johnson had said one investor, Stevens’ grandson, Peter Hanchak of Virginia, still owned some of Stevens’ furniture and paintings. The group had hoped to return those items to the house.

When reached Thursday, Hanchak declined to comment.

Johnson, author of “Wallace Stevens: A Dual Life as Poet and Insurance Executive” and the web site, www.wallacestevensbiography.com, said the group had hoped to show another side of Stevens, sometimes considered solitary, even prickly.

“It is of course with great disappointment that we cannot move forward on this project,” Johnson said. “The Wallace Stevens home is a wonderful house with beautiful interior wainscoting and paneling, and I’m sure some family that purchases it will be delighted with their new home.”

Johnson said a home inspection did not reveal any major flaws and was not a factor in the decision to halt the group’s plans.

Paula Fahy Ostop, the listing agent with Ellyn Marshall & Associates/William Raveis in West Hartford, said the property at 118 Westerly Terrace has returned to the market with at the original asking price.

The house has been owned by Christ Church Cathedral since Stevens’ death and used as a deanery. The church decided to sell it because its priests now prefer to live in their own homes.

The investors had planned to hold the 6-bedroom, 1920s Colonial for 18 months, in hopes of raising $500,000, enough to transfer the property to a foundation that would oversee the museum and its maintenance.

Stevens was praised as a “poet’s poet” as early as the 1930s, but he kept a low profile in Hartford, virtually unknown to his neighbors. Stevens was known to compose poems in his head while walking to his job as a vice president at the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Co., now The Hartford Financial Services Group.

Stevens, who lived in house from 1932 until his death in 1955, won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry and National Book Award.

A few years ago, The Hartford Friends of Wallace Stevens, a group of poets and poetry lovers, created a tribute to Stevens in the city.

Theyerected 13 knee-high granite stones — each with a verse of Stevens‘ widely known poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” — along his walking route from home to office. One of the stones is on a grassy boulevard across the street from the house.

Jim Finnegan, the group’s president, said the Friends had also tried to interest corporations and area colleges in acquiring the house, with no success.

Finnegan said the museum plan was the last hope to preserve as many interior features as possible as they were when Stevens lived there.

“Oh well,” Finnegan said. “I hope the house finds a suitable buyer.”

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Long-Vacant Building Near Planned Hartford Ballpark Has A Buyer

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The long-vacant former bank data processing center on Windsor Street in Hartford has a buyer. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com

The long-vacant former bank data processing center on Windsor Street in Hartford has a buyer. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com

The bunker-like building at 150 Windsor St. just north of downtown Hartford has remained vacant since Bank of America moved out six years ago.

But the 193,000-square-foot structure is now under contract, providing evidence, city officials say, that the recent plan for a new ballpark just to the west is spurring investor and developer interest in the now-barren area known as Downtown North.

“It’s a building that’s been sitting empty, no one knows what to do with it, but someone, as a result of the ballpark announcement, believes this is the time to take a risk on it,” Hartford’s director of development Thomas E. Deller told my colleague Dan Haar.

Jay Morris, the broker with O,R&L Commercial who has the listing, declined to identify the buyer or the purchase price. But Morris told me the purchase should close by the end of the year.

Morris said he did not know the buyer’s specific plans for the 4-story building, constructed in 1971 for a long line of bank data processing operations.

The building is owned by Summit Place LLC, according to city records, whose managing member is Irving Bork, of Ellington.

The building was one of the 13 sites proposed for the University of Connecticut’s downtown Hartford campus. At that time, another broker from O,R&L said the building “would be taken right down to the steel” if UConn chose it. (UConn ultimately selected the former Hartford Times building near Front Street.)

The Windsor Street property has enough space to park 300 cars on the site, with two levels of underground parking. The building has large, 40,000-square-foot floor sizes and room, if needed, for an addition. The building occupies an entire city block between Trumbull and Pleasant streets and has a back-up generator.

Plans for the ballpark must still be approved by the city council. The city hopes the Downtown North area will form a connection between downtown and the city’s North End. In the 1960s, the construction of I-84 split off the area from the rest of downtown.

Acclaimed Poet’s Hartford Home Is On The Market

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The former home of poet Wallace Stevens is on the market. Photo Credit: Paula Fahy Ostop, William Raveis,

The former home of poet Wallace Stevens is on the market. Photo Credit: Paula Fahy Ostop, William Raveis CLICK HERE FOR MORE PHOTOS

For years, acclaimed poet Wallace Stevens walked from his home in Hartford’s West End to his day job at a local insurance company, composing poems on the way.

Now, the 1920s Colonial where Stevens’ daily journeys began is on the market, with an asking price of $489,900.

The 3,900-square-foot home has 6 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms built on about a half-acre in one of the city’s most exclusive neighborhoods.

The home has owned by Christ Church Cathedral, which has used it as a dean’s residence, since 1955.

Stevens bought the house at 118 Westerly Terrace in 1932, and it became the poet’s lifelong home. Stevens didn’t learn to drive, so for many years he walked to the two miles between his home and the offices of the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Co.

Stevens kept a low-profile in Hartford and remained virtually unknown to his neighbors and an oddity to his co-workers.

Once asked to repeat at the Wadsworth Atheneum a lecture he had given in New York in 1951 at the Museum of Modern Art, Stevens declined: “Sorry. In Hartford I’m known as a businessman.”

Stevens won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1955, just months before he died.

Paula Fahy Ostop, an agent at William Raveis in West Hartford, has the listing.

Greater Hartford Home Sales Slip In All-Important Spring Season

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Sales of single-family houses in Greater Hartford slipped for the third month in a row in May, a new report Wednesday shows, a less than encouraging sign for the spring home buying market.

In May, closed sales fell by 9.3 percent, to 836 from 922 for the same month a year earlier, according to the report from the Greater Hartford Association of Realtors, which tracks a 57-town area from Enfield south to Middletown.

The median sale price — in which half the sales are above, half below — dropped 3.1 percent, to $218,000 from $225,000 a year earlier.

Inventory jumped 14.2 percent, to 7,632, from 6,682 a year earlier. Based on sales logged in May, the area has a nine-month supply of houses for sale, firmly in what is called a buyer’s market. The market is said to be in equilibrium with a six month’s supply, favoring neither buyer nor seller.

There were a couple of positive signs: properties under contract rose 4 percent, compared with a year ago — pointing to the potential for a year-over-year increase in sales in June. Sellers also appear confident they will find buyers, as new listings rose 14.4 percent.

LAZ Parking Closing Hartford Garage To Explore Redevelopment

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A parking garage at the corner of Market and Talcott streets in downtown Hartford will close this summer, while the owner works with the city on plans for revitalizing the block just north of the G. Fox building.

The garage at One Talcott Plaza, shown here from Main Street, will close later this summer. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com.

The garage at One Talcott Plaza, shown here from Main Street, will close later this summer. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com.

LAZ Parking has owned the 760-space parking garage, part of One Talcott Plaza, since 2011. LAZ said Wednesday the garage is “structurally sound” but in need of major repairs.

One Talcott Plaza, which is located between Market and Main streets, was among the 13 sites in downtown Hartford proposed as a site for relocating the University of Connecticut’s campus in West Hartford to downtown. UConn eventually chose the former Hartford Times property near Front Street.

In addition to the parking garage, One Talcott Plaza also contains 103,000 square feet of now-vacant office space. There also is a parking lot on the Main Street end of the property.

A rendering of the roposed University of Connecticut branch at the corner of Main and Talcott streets in downtown Hartford.

A rendering of the proposed University of Connecticut branch at the corner of Main and Talcott streets in downtown Hartford.

The garage is now working to relocate 500 monthly parkers who use Talcott to other LAZ garages and lots in downtown.

The property will be a key link between downtown and the area just to the north, known as Downtown North. Downtown North is the site of a proposed minor league baseball park.

 

 

 

 

SunTrust To Pay Almost $1B Over Home Foreclosure, Servicing Practices

by Categorized: Mortgage Fraud Settlement, Uncategorized Date:

A major mortgage servicer has reached a $968 million settlement with federal authorities and 49 states — including Connecticut — over abusive home lending, servicing and foreclosing practices, it was announced Tuesday.

SunTrust Banks Inc. has reached a three-year settlement with federal regulators, attorneys general in 49 states and the District of Columbia that includes $550 million for borrowers who suffered foreclosure abuses.

The settlement provides for direct cash payments to some borrowers for foreclosure abuses, plus loan modifications and other relief. In addition, SunTrust must comply with stricter mortgage servicing standards, subject to review by an independent mortgage monitor.

“While we cannot prevent every home foreclosure, attorneys general from across the country — in partnership with the federal government — continue to hold servicers accountable and to provide relief to families wherever possible,” Jepsen said.

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said about 150 borrowers in the state could qualify for a cash payment as a result of the settlement with SunTrust.

Jepsen’s office could not estimate Tuesday Connecticut’s share of the $550 million, but the state’s share is expected to be modest because SunTrust does not have a branch presence in the state.

Eligible borrowers will be contacted on how to apply for payments under the settlement. Current Suntrust borrowers can contact the the bank at 1-800-634-7928 or by email through the “Support” page at www.SunTrustMortgage.com with questions about principal reductions and loan modifications.

In a statement, SunTrust said Tuesday it is addressing problems in its mortgage servicing business, including underwriting and “internal controls.”

The settlement follows a landmark national mortgage settlement with major servicers in 2012. The settlement has provided $51 billion in relief to borrowers nationally and about $450 million to almost 6,300 borrowers in Connecticut, Jepsen said.

 

 

 

 

Connecticut Home Sales In April Fall For First Time In More Than A Year

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Connecticut home sales in April slowed for the first time in more than a year, a sign that the upward momentum in the past two years could be slowing, a new report today shows.

In April, sales of single-family houses statewide fell 8 percent, to 1,816 compared with 1,973 for the same month a year ago, according to the monthly report from The Warren Group, which tracks housing trends in New England.

The median sale price — in which half the sales are above, half below — also fell, down 2 percent, to $245,000, from $250,000 a year ago.

Timothy M. Warren Jr., chief executive of The Warren Group, said sales were “disappointing sluggish” in April, reflecting a slowdown in buying and selling in the winter months. Sales that closed in April went under contract 60 to 90 days prior.

April sales provided a weak lead in to the spring home buying season, typically the strongest of the year. But Warren said he wasn’t ready to declare a slowdown just yet.

“We’ll have to wait for the summer months to gauge sales during the big spring selling season,” Warren said.

The decline in the median sale price reflects just how difficult it has been for the housing market to recover from the last recession, Warren said, which has been marked by equally sluggish job growth.