Category Archives: Uncategorized

Hartford Rappellers Raise More Than Expected for Nonprofit

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Waterford Group CEO Len Wolman prepares to rappel 22 stories at the Hilton Hartford last week. (Photo by Daniel Owen/

Waterford Group CEO Len Wolman prepares to rappel 22 stories at the Hilton Hartford last week. (Photo by Daniel Owen/

More than 100 rappellers at the Hilton Hartford last week helped call attention to  a new, nonprofit organization focusing on the problem of drug and alcohol addiction among children and young adults.

The event also raised $305,000, well above the $250,000 first anticipated, Shatterproof, the Norwalk-based nonprofit announced Thursday.

The event was hosted by the Waterford Group Inc., which owns and manages the Hilton and two other hotels in the city. Waterford’s chairman Len Wolman was among the rappellers.

Read my story about last week’s event and see Daniel Owen’s video here.

Shatterproof was founded in 2013 by Gary Mendell, also a Connecticut-based hotel industry executive, after the death of his son Brian, at age 25. Mendell’s son has struggled with addiction.

Shatterproof plans 14 rappelling events around the country this year, with Hartford being the seventh.








Connecticut Home Sales Get Bump In Spring Season

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Connecticut home sales in June posted the strongest gains so far this year, a new report Tuesday shows, an indication that the well-watched spring home buying season may have been stronger than first thought.

Sales of single-family homes rose nearly 6 percent in June, to 2,799, compared with 2,646 for the same month a year ago, according to a report from The Warren Group, which tracks housing trends in New England.

Prices remain weak, however. The median sale price — where half the sales are above, half below — of a single-family house across the state fell 3.2 percent in June to $276,000, from $285,000 a year ago, Warren Group reported.

Timothy M Warren Jr., Warren Group’s chief executive, said Connecticut continues to show signs of improvement in what has been a prolonged, slow recovery from the last recession.

“Real estate closings in June, July and August are typically the highest of the year as the deals made during the spring selling season get officially recorded,” Warren said. “While not robust, the Connecticut real estate market continues to show a solid recovery.”

June’s sale volume was the highest since August, 2013 when 2,897 homes were sold, Warren said.

Even with the bump up in June, sales of single-family houses statewide are still lagging last year’s pace. Through the first six months of 2014, sales are down almost 2 percent, compared to the same period last year.

Prices also are lower, down 3.2 percent for the first six months of this year compared with 2013.

Hotel Developer Stepping Over the Edge In Hartford — For Charity

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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.



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:

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

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

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

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,, 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.”




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/

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

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/

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

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.