City Of Hartford Buying More Downtown Property For Redevelopment

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On the northern edge of downtown Hartford, there is a no man’s land of vacant parcels and parking lots, desolate and not at all pedestrian friendly.

But the city of Hartford sees potential for the area to one day form a crucial link between downtown and the North End, most likely with a combination of housing, retail and office space. The city already owns a little over 7 acres and is close to adding another one-acre wedge of land.

The city is acquiring this parking lot at 58 Chapel St. on the northern edge of downtown as part of an effort to assemble land for redevelopment. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com.

The city council has approved spending $1.3 million to purchase the LAZ parking lot at 58 Chapel St. The city hopes to gain control of enough land to attract a developer, possibly within the next year. The developer could then get started quickly without having to wait for the city to acquire land, city officials say.

The tract at 58 Chapel is the second the city has purchased in recent years. The first, the H.B. Davis building at 1161 Main St., was acquired for $625,000 and later demolish. For years, the building was derided as the “Butt Ugly Building.”

One of the largest tracts owned in the area by the city — 3.3 acres — is at 1212 Main. Channel 3, WFSB-TV, once considered relocating to the site from Broadcast House on Constitution Plaza, but ultimately chose a site in a Rocky Hill office park.

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15 thoughts on “City Of Hartford Buying More Downtown Property For Redevelopment

  1. Harry

    Great – take away a key lot that people park in during work and for XL events after work. This will force people to use more expensive lots (or city owned ones, maybe) = another reason not to go to Hartford for anything.
    The city already has tons of unused space and retail places that are empty. Why would anyone want to put anything at that location. It is perfect for parking, however.

  2. mark

    The city of Hartford should remain a giant parking lot and filing cabinet for the insurance industry so that Harry can get from his McMansion in the burbs to his boring Hartford cubicle downtown.

  3. Harry

    Sorry but I don’t live in a McMansion nor do I work in Hartford. The comment was intended to mean that there are already several unused retail spaces in Hartford (XL center, Front Street, etc.) why would they buy more space to also be unoccupied.
    By the way if people who lived not in Hartford and didn’t go to Hartford there wouldn’t be a need for the downtown area at all and we could all save a lot of money and the city of Hartford could buy all the land and have a lot of unused retail space.

    1. DM

      Part of the retail issue stems from exorbitant rental rates kept artificially high by out of town landlords. I do think the city needs to consider tax abatement programs for businesses that wish to occupy a space that has been vacant for more than 6 months. Creations like the ATOM space Pop-Up Art Gallery are a nice interim solution to the vacant space problem.

      Apparently your statement has revealed you have no vision for what a downtown should be come or what it means to the community at large and therefor you have proved you aren’t qualified to make sufficient comments.

    2. mike

      Its hart to write an intelligent reply to what you have written thus far, however….. The city in this instance is not buying retail…

      so what is your obsession with retail?

      The city is buying the parking area to package with the other parking lots it owns. no one said they would close the lots while seeking a developer.

      lastly, If the city gets someone to come in and build a significant project on these precious parking lots I am sure that the existing retail space in the city will be more occupied and the new development will also contain parking so that your XL center events are still accessable.

      PS a stronger downtown makes a stronger metro area, and a stronger metro area gets better events for you to come to downtown.

  4. DM

    Downtown Hartford desperately needs to reduce the amount of surface parking to create cohesive streets that create a sense of place that is both walkable and functional. At the moment there are few streets that are contiguous, and the result is that Downtown feels incomplete, as if it were the victim of a war where structures were destroyed and surface lots sprung up as an interim replacement. The new structures should fill in the landscape at a human scale to complement the skyscrapers that are already there. Viable mass transit options need to alleviate the single occupant vehicle approach that has devastated downtown, and many positive conversations are happening towards this end at the right time when gasoline prices orbit near $5 a gallon.

  5. Brian

    One trip up to the higher floors of the city’s taller buildings and a look out the window shows how the city has been destroyed by surface parking lots. The urban fabric has been decimated as classic mixed-used buildings have been torn down and turned into parking lots. I’d love to see apartments with office space/retail go up in that area. The one problem is it doesn’t help walkability and density by putting something like this on the edge of downtown. The city needs a strong core, not continued expansion around the downtown edges.

  6. Kenneth R. Gosselin Post author

    Any development in this area would most likely have to include some parking component. I agree the city needs a strong core, but this area isn’t all that far away. It just seems that way because of the way the highway cuts through. Certainly, it would be a challenge to integrate this area into downtown. The new police and fire complex, however, is directly adjacent to this area. Any ideas for integrating this area into downtown?

  7. mike

    The only way to get people to walk from downtown to the Northern wasteland is to give them a valid reason to do so.
    The “Heaven” Skatepark will likely be more active than it currently is with planned upgrades, but we are still talking about crossing a section of city with WIDE, FAST confusing roadways, and impractical sidewalks. If order for anything to work here it needs to have a MASSIVE residential component. There is no demand for downtown office space so all vibrancy must come from new residents for wich there is a large demand. Non residential options would be building a minor league baseball stadium here for the rockcats bringing about 500,000 visitors downtown every year at a reasonable cost(20-30 Million) Incorporate parking as well as some residential units and people would find reasons to cross that dead space.

    as far as alleviating the parking issue, the only solution is to deck over I-84 with a parking structure like in Minneapolis. They have massive structured parking garages over a Highway downtown near the Arena and baseball stadium. This parking is used for sports as well as office parkers and would work well just West of “heaven”

    something that needs to hapen also is for the city to allow more apartment buildings with smaller garage or parking requirements. cars are less needed in cities, in order for the city to truely advance the city has to allow developers to to include less designated parking This would free parking up for general use and would lower parking costs around the city. (the garage at sage allen is evidence of this… Never full, but so many spaces are reserved for tenants… Tenants that dont own 2 cars.

  8. david Roberts

    Time will show that moving the Police station is a big Phychological boost to Hartford and this part of town. A perfect area for modern townhouses, apartments, a mix of large and small scale.

  9. Bri

    I don’t purport to be a real estate developer so I won’t give my two cents on what should be there, but I will say as a Hartford resident that I’d rather not see some type of shopping center structure with a big box retailer component. Any development in this area should have a density level akin to downtown in order to stretch downtown northward. An extremely underused asset in this city exists just north of this area – the Keney Memorial Clocktower. In any other city this would be a great tourist attraction. It has the potential to be Hartford’s version of the bunker hill tower – great views in all directions.

    1. Kenneth R. Gosselin

      Excellent point about the clock tower. I only recently learned some of the history behind this structure.

  10. MARK C. YELLIN

    HOW TO HELP HARTFORD

    Having been born in Hartford, and having lived in the Hartford area for more than 70 years, I have seen many potentially great real estate, job creating, and business opportunities proposed, but lost.

    Lost many times due to the lack of business and/or real estate experience, lack of business knowledge, or non-caring of “ I get paid anyway” ” public” officials, doing what they want to do, often wandering into areas they know nothing about, but making key decisions anyway.
    ========================================

    One potentially great proposal 35 +/- years ago…(of which proposal I was a leader) was to rehabilitate and rebuild ( with private funds ) the old railroad buildings and yards ( 9.5 acres ) located directly at the intersection of I- 91 and I -84, in Hartford and make the buildings and property into a Quincy Market ( Boston ) type facility.

    My brother Bob and I and a group of our friends had purchased this abandoned, run down railroad property.

    Our proposed plan was to renovate the two long (about 300-400 feet long) brick, side by side railroad buildings …and make a Quincy Market type facility with plenty of parking.

    Quincy Market in Boston is an extremely popular tourist and local attraction, a family oriented, multi food, fun filled, wonder spot.

    The Hartford location was great ( 200,000 to 300,000 cars +/- pass daily ) …and would attract visitors from near and far.

    It would have attracted many on their way to and from skiing in Vermont and points north, as well as those passing through Hartford to and from New York and Boston, the Cape and points north and south, as well as thousands of local persons.

    But the CT DOT, caring nothing for the Hartford taxes that would have been produced, the hundreds of jobs the market would have created, the 40 +/- new small businesses it would have opened, not caring, destroyed the project.

    The bumbling officials in the DOT disregarded our pleas and the advantages to the citizens of this area, for its own short sighted idea, to put an exit to Trumbull Street, directly though the buildings and this property.

    Pleas to move this proposed exit a little north, to save the project, were ignored,

    It was like shouting in a hurricane, falling on deaf and non- caring ears.

    So the tax generating, job creating, financial shot in the arm for Hartfotd and its surrounding area, died.
    Now, more than 35+/- years later this land still lies vacant, devoid of buildings, and an eyesore to Hartford, and to passers- by.
    ==========================================

    Steve Winn about 30+/- years ago, proposed he would build a $ 350,000,000 casino on Main Street at Trumbull, on vacant debris covered land.

    This project would have generated millions of dollars in real estate and personal property taxes for Hartford, would have created hundreds of permanent jobs, and would have attracted thousands of visitors to Hartford.

    This proposal was shot down and denied by a Governor who had no business experience, and by a Mayor who knew nothing of business or economics, who both stated that poor people would lose their money if the casino was built.

    So now 30 +/- years later, the land still stands empty and vacant, producing no tax revenues, providing no jobs, attracting no visitors to Hartford.
    Yet 45 minutes away, two casinos attract thousands and provide hundreds of jobs.
    ========================================

    Recently,$ 650 million dollars was authorized for a buss way between New Britain and Hartford.

    When built, dozens of costly busses, using much gas and diesel will travel every few minutes, back and forth between Hartford and New Britain.

    Will there be a large number of passengers on each of these many busses?
    I doubt it. In all likelihood, a hand few. No cars are permitted on this new road.

    Had the inexperienced, short sighted “ public “ officials only looked and used their eyes and brains, they would have seen a much better course.

    Had they but to drive from New Britain to Hartford, or from any west Connecticut town, Farmington, Avon, Waterbury, Southington, Canton, Bristol, Simsbury, West Hartford, they would see the problem and the solution.

    They would see that one is tied up in bumper to bumper traffic, from 3 or
    3: 30 PM to 6: 30 PM every day in the week.

    This traffic mess discourages those who might contemplate going into Hartford to eat, shop or for entertainment.

    Could not the same $ 650 million have been spent to add two lanes to I- 84, from where RT 9 enters I-84 to the Buckley (Connecticut River) bridge
    ( about 4 miles ) ?

    These two additional lanes would be a God send to Hartford, and would also allow New Britain – Hartford traffic to pass easily, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    The congestion on entering Hartford continues and increases annually, and the buss way will do nothing to eliminate this problem.

    ==========================================
    Also– Check out Danielson, Connecticut where the 5 layman, non business /non experienced Zoning Board turned down a request from Walmart to build a giant million+/- square feet, major regional distribution center, on 150 or more vacant acres, on the east side of I- 395, in a completely wooded, non used area.

    This facility would have generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in Town taxes, provided hundreds of good jobs and made housing and business in the balance of the Town and area, boom.

    No—- it was turned down.

    Today, years later, the land is still vacant and unused, and hundreds of people in the area are looking for jobs and can not find them, and the real estate market and many local small businesses are floundering .
    =========================================

    THIS HAPPENS EVERY DAY….Think about it.

    If the inexperienced, non- business, non- caring “public” officials, step aside and do not try to hinder growth with their short sighted regulations and costly requirements, and if they let proposals develop and mature….
    we will someday see a great resurgence in Hartford, the city I loved and still do.

    MARK C. YELLIN 11/4/12

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