Construction Could Begin Next Spring On Constitution Plaza Apartment Tower

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A builder who envisions a new, 195-unit apartment tower at Constitution Plaza in downtown Hartford will bring the proposal to city planners next week.

Rendering of the 15-story apartment tower on Constitution Plaza that Abul Islam hopes to build, with the help of state housing funds. Rendering Courtesy of AI Engineers, Inc.

Builder Abul Islam told me today that he could break ground on the 15-story, $50 million tower as soon as next spring on the site of the old Broadcast House, now a hole in the ground with a fence around it.

Islam said the mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom units, split between market-rate and those affordable to low- and moderate-income households. He hopes the apartments — named The Residences at River View — will appeal to young professionals and empty nesters.

“My project and others in and around Hartford will boost revitalization efforts in Hartford,” Islam told me. “You have to create an environment where you live, work and play.”

To qualify for the low- and moderate-income units, tenants would have to meet certain income guidelines. For instance, a prospective tenant in a one-person, or studio, apartment could earn no more than $37,500 a year. The units would not be Section 8, which target much lower incomes.

Islam must still secure the majority of financing for the project. He hopes to tap into housing funds from the state, including the governor’s program that seeks to promote low- and moderate income households. He was unsuccessful in his first bid for those funds, but plans to reapply by Nov. 28, Islam told me.

Islam has already sunk more than $2 million of his own money into the project, buying Broadcast House in 2008 and demolishing it a year later.

Earlier this year, Islam abandoned initial plans to build an office tower on the site amid a weak office leasing market in the city.

Islam abandoned plans for this office tower amid a weak office leasing market in downtown Hartford.

Islam’s apartment plans join several others in the city, including conversion of the neighboring, vacant Sonesta hotel on the plaza. A Fairfield developer also is seeking to convert the Bank of America tower at 777 Main St. into apartments.

Those projects target studio and one-bedroom apartments, which are in short supply in the city’s downtown area.

The design of Islam’s apartment tower differs from the original office building plan. The apartment structure would be L-shaped at the corner of State Street and Columbus Boulevard.

The apartment tower would have about 22,000 square feet of commercial and retail space. Islam’s firm, AI Engineers, Inc., now located in Middletown, would likely be the sole commercial tenant.






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57 thoughts on “Construction Could Begin Next Spring On Constitution Plaza Apartment Tower

  1. charles

    sounds great! i’m looking forward to the added competition! certain current downtown landlords are subpar and preventing me from selling my condo to move in. bring on the landlord competition!

    1. Jimmy Boggs

      charles; If you once bought a condo, they will bury you in it before it sells. Get used to it.

  2. Don

    If this is a viable project then it should be done without government financing. “Afordable housing” should not be a part of downtown housing. People who are shelling out for market rate housing do not want to be in a building with people who are not paying market rates and that is just a fact. Use “afordable housing” to secure financing and you will have a failed project. The history of such projects in Hartford and around the country prove this.

  3. MG

    Do you people in the suburbs EVER stop about whining about poor people or being resentful of having to do anything for Hartford? I realize Don that you are perfectly fine with your capital city dying, but maybe you can stop yapping for once.

  4. DP

    @ Don-Your statement is not true, as I live in a “mixed use” property and don’t care that some of my neighbors are paying below market rents.

    Everyone deserves a chance to live in safe, decent, affordable housing as their income dictates. Stop the hate!

  5. Don

    I’m sorry folks, but there are plenty of low and middle income rents in Hartford available. The only reason this developer or the others would even consider “low and middle income rents” is to get their hands on cheap government money. If this is a viable project, then there is plenty of private money out there.

  6. sue

    Hartford’s dying because it has been run by DEMS for decades. Just like New Britain, New Haven, Bridgeport and all the other large CT cities. The dems gave the lazy public union employees the keys to the vault and they bankrupted the cities. All the business is gone forever and the upper and middle classes are slowly moving out.

  7. dr

    I agree with Don. If a residential project needs government money to get off the ground, then it probably shouldn’t be done to begin with.

  8. Dazedandbemused

    You’re wrong on one point, Sue. The middle class is long gone, driven out by the failed schools and the crime. But since official policy is to pretend that the schools are wonderful and the crime no worse than in Glastonbury don’t look for improvement. And MG, where exactly is it written that I have any obligation to do anything for Hartford? Why don’t you folks in Hartford pick a day after which everyone in the city agrees to stop selling drugs, committing crimes and having illegitimate children? If you did that you would no longer need our help.

    1. MAC

      Connecticut needs to consolidate schools and some public services. Every tiny town having it’s own school system, trash collection, etc., is not efficent.

  9. PMac

    However, this state is currently about over-taxing, sifting off money to pay the bureaucracy, then redistributing to encourage economic vitality. Thus, Governor’s first 5 etc… Therefore, if taxes are strangulating economic development, then we must “redistribute” some back into business.
    Horrible, business plan for a state, but it is what it is. At least our neighbors (Taxachusetts, Chapter 11-RI, USSRNY, and NJ run on the same model.
    Don’t be offended if we have to use public money, b/c that money came from the citizens and private sector b/f it was “public.”

    1. MAC

      The alternative is Georgia or Mississippi…low taxes and regulations but people can’t read, the roads are falling apart, there’s trash every where and the water supply is polluted. Come on down!

  10. Russ

    My wife and I just moved to an apartment at Trumbull on the park. Using it as a second home and we are quite thrilled with being in the city. I welcome this project, maybe it will keep the rents from going through the roof and be competitive for all. New movie theaters coming, Infinity music hall. Hartford is coming back!!!

  11. Linda

    I like Russ’s optimism. We do need a significant public-private investment in the XL for UCONN hoops x 2, hockey east, and perhaps NHL (2 expansion teams possible and sunbelt teams and islanders will relocate in next 3-7 years. A vibrant downtown will fill apartment buildings. So far, the Governor’s office hasn’t said boo about XL center and the vacant commercial property co-located on Trumbull that is owned by Northland. Baldwin got thrown under the bus by the Courant and the Governor, but so far no leaders have emerged. All seem to be waiting on the tooth fairy.

  12. Don

    How is this residential building going to make it? Where is the parking? This is not NYC, people need cars to live in this city.

    1. MAC

      Does Don know how it costs to own and operate a car on average each year? We need more compact development and transportation options for the 60% of the population that can’t, or shouldn’t, be driving.

    2. Teeheehaha

      No Mr. Don, on the contrary you need an automobile to go on forth to other suburban towns and back since a city such as Hartford have everything close by vicinity wise. What the city does needs however is to re-introduced the street car and other efficient forms of transportation. Your views are somewhat skewed.

  13. Russ

    Don, I’m sure when they construct the place they will have a parking garage. Our place has parking for two cars. What the city needs is to get some of this office space leased and cheaper rents for some new businesses, and shops. This transformation isn’t going to happen over night.

    1. Don

      Russ, the building is going to be on a small parcel, on the corner of a huge commercial project with inadequate parking. Where are they going to put the parking, East Hartford? You will need to get a cab to get home from parking your car. 21 works, the two buildings on Trumbull work, because they have adequate parking. On site.

          1. Calm down

            Wrong again Don. Parking will be available to residents should this building get built. Feel better?

  14. mike

    there is a difference between Hartfords woes and Downtown Hartford… lets just stop the BS.

    Downtowns issues were caused by two commercial booms that demolished all of the downtow housing and built many un pedestrian friendly office buildings and alot of surface parking lots.

    the arena is important, but not as much as housing downtown. market rate preferably, but some of these moderate imcome units are fina dn will keep the young downtown. With 195 apartments here, 286 in 777 main(bank of america) 199 more in the Sonesta hotel and 115 in Phase 2 at front street, downtown will really start to get its energy back and that will lead to retail and more bars/resturants…. hopefully we can get the area sorted out in 5 years. Hartford circa 2018 will be getting less negative nancy BS from suburbanites. and by then may not need government help

  15. Catspaw

    Don says: “This is not NYC, people need cars to live in this city.” And they need jobs. Current vacancy rates cannot be addressed without major employers or a vibrant small business market.

    Let’s look at that. The past two decades, under Republican Governors if you want to pick that sore, and a drug fueled crime war in Hartford, have convinced major players that their workers would rather work anywhere but not in Hartford.

    Now for the small business player. Exorbitant rents and few customers have closed small business from a cigar shop, to a knife sharpener and any number of small concerns that used to call the Civic Center and surrounding streets home.

    So where are we?

    Hartford’s majors are gone and won’t come back. The small players can’t because their customers have moved with the majors to suburban campus installations or just gone out of business.

    The only other answer? Universities.

    University of Hartford, Trinity, UCONN ect. Are one possible saving grace. As a State Capitol Hartford isn’t much but what about as a University Capitol?

    With so much empty space and so much infrastructure in place all that’s missing is the people. Imagine the Constitution Plaza with students, instructors and service providers in a dedicated multi university environment.

    That kind of educational emphasis is more viable than pipe dreams of some job creators from up on high suddenly finding Hartford attractive.

    One approach waits for the jobs fairies and the other builds on existing strengths.

    Why build a condo tower unless you know who you are building it for? Why is the golden shower busway important without anything at either end? Why give tax breaks just to big business when the same investment could improve Hartford as a regional education center.

    Basically, that’s what the Insurance Companies had been building since the eighties. Now those structures need to be turned to another purpose, why not education?

    1. SquareFeet

      The trouble with education facilities is that they are non profit and non tax paying. Hartford already has 50% of the buildings not paying taxes. The more you take off the tax rolls, the worse the revenue situation gets, or the tax payers get increases to make up the difference, so they move out….and around and around it goes.

  16. Dazedandbemused

    How many units are now occupied in that high rise they built attached to the XL Center? Has the grocery store that was supposed to serve the residents but went belly-up been replaced? When I was a single young professional working in downtown Hartford in the late 1980s and early 1990s all “the young” lived in West Hartford. Sure we went to the clubs around Union Station but eventually that became too scary. Hell, didn’t a MAN get raped there a couple of years ago? Enjoy your pipe dreams, my friends, I’ll just sit here and pay my taxes to subsidize empty buildings while the developers make off with their cut before the house of cards comes down.

      1. mike

        ricbee, you could not be more wrong. Hartford is currently a top market nationallyfor apartment rentals nationally at 3.1% and this has been holding steady while rents have been rising.

  17. Wade Boggs

    You are clueless ricbee. Downtown apartments .. especially studios and one bedrooms .. are in demand and tough to find right now. There are not “tons of empty apartments” in Hartford.

    You gotta love when people who have no idea what they are talking about act like they do. Happens a lot on these Courant message boards.

    1. Don

      You are the one who doesn’t have a clue. There are tons of apartments for the low and middle income people. These apartments are ostensibly being build to draw young professionals to the “downtown” area, if there is a demand for these units and I believe that there is then the developers should put their money up and build it. No need for public money.

      1. mike

        Why not take public money if it is available?

        West Hartford gave breaks to lure Blueback… this is no different. If the nation and the state had not spent billions encouraging suburbanization people would not need to support re-urbanization now. But we have done this for 50 years, and now we are realizing the inefficiencies of suburbia. Hopefully in 5-10 years we will have balanced things out and there will be no need for assistance.

        1. Phil

          Developers are in the business of making money off their buildings. So therefore if they can help offset their initial investment by tweeking their plans slightly, as long as it doesn’t affect the long term appreciation of the building, why wouldn’t they want to do so.

          It’s a win for downtown and Hartford in general b/c it gets more young single people who cannot afford Hartford 21, (grad students, police, teachers, fire fighters, etc) but want to live downtown, on the streets and into businesses.

          It’s a win for the developer b/c they lower their expenses and thereby increasing their profit on the project.

          Speaking as a suburbanite who wishes to see more good things for Hartford’s future, I hope to see more developments like this.

  18. Les

    Just what we need – more concrete and steel. Isn’t hartford sterile enough yet ?
    With each new proposed project, the place loses more and more of what used to be New England charm. There is no where to go where you aren’t run off by security or left wondering where any activities might lie in this small city.
    As a former business owner in downtown Hartford, I keep wondering when the town planners will actually plan something good to bring people back. Infinity ballroom could be a real feather. Lets see that encouraged by the city. Build on that theme – Entertainment!
    I agree that there are plenty of units available to rent in downtown. Don’t throw good money after bad.

    1. mike

      Clearly another person who has not gone looking for an apartment downtown.

      There is demand otherwise we would not have 1000 units proposed in Downtown. and what do you want? a demolished pit in the ground or a building with people living, working and hopefully shopping. Sterility is not created by residential buildings… residents bring life and vitality and they ensure that those entertainment options you covet are viable. and New England charm? Old Wethersfield is New England charm. No city, not even Boston can exhude New England Charm.

  19. Rob

    We’re not talking about destroying architectural gems here. We have a vacant office tower (ugly), a vacant hotel (ughly) and a whole in the ground where the broadcaset house used to be.

    The negativity and nastiness in these blogs never ceases to amaze me, and from both sides of the political spectrum. There are LOTS of good hardworking people in the city, it is not only full of criminals! People have a right to live in the suburbs for a better quality of life. WE ALL BELONG TO THE COMMUNITY OF GREATER HARTFORD AND SHOULD RESPECT EACH OTHER. THE SUBURBS DONT SURVIVE WITHOUT A STRONG URBAN CORE. We are already subsidizing Hartford. While I an NOT A proponent of Corporate welfare, I do believe that investing in projects that revitalize the downtown core is a good investment. There IS A DEMAND for these apartments. These projects DO improve the city and residential scale will help retail. Its also important for downtown employers to stay downtown and these types of projects create a better urban environment. Additionally over time there more revenue for the city which brings down the required subsidies from the state. Its unfortunate that the anonymity of these blogs allows people to make such hateful, ignorant and uninformed comments.

    1. mike

      Wow, very well said! I probably contributed to the venom, while you said alot of what I wanted to say but using better words! The best part about a more vibrant downtown is that it will be more attractive to businesses looking to relocate. Everyone knows that we have a hard working talented educated work force. That is something that is very hard to develop, and we have it! If the city were more attractive, more companies would mkove here bringing more jobs and therefore more prosperity to the region. The people in Simsbury or Farmington that might be complaining about a subsidy would benefit from a healthy Hartford.

      1. Rob

        Thats right. EVERYONE in the state of CT subsidizes our captial city. Wouldnt it be nice to improve it and to have more pride in it? Wouldnt it be nice to bring economic life and reduce the city’s dependence on the state? Sometimes you just do the right thing and it benefits everyone.

  20. Evan andriopoulos

    The city does not have the leadership or the special interest organizations working together or in place to make it happen. They are more worries about their salaries and jobs. Do enough to survive… not good enough. IQuilt is a start but we have a LONG way to go.

    Gov.Malloy has been great at bringing business to Stamford but what about Hartford, New London? you name it.

    Hartford will struggle and will suffer due to it´s lack of infra and lack of easy access to the airport. The convention center is struggling because of it. other than “Connecticut” focused events it will never be able to compete with Boston and NY which have airports in their backyard and transit to support the shuttling of traffic from the airport to the city.

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  22. Troy

    I grew up in Hartford during the 1940’s – 1960’s. I am currently an empty-nester living in Arizona but would love to have the opportunity to be able to move back to CT and live in downtown Hartford. I wish Abul Islam all the best.
    Keep up the good work!

  23. Here's Johnny

    WFSB Channel 3 moved. The building was torn down. It’s been a parking lot. A new golf network is now renovating the site where Spris and Braza retaurants were located. The old Sonesta Hotel has been vacant for years. It’s great that someone is willing to invest in luxury apartments at the old Channel 3 site, but exactly where are these people going to buy groceries? The Front Street development project is practically empty. Hartford has a history of tearing down buildings, with investors promising to build a new building, and then it almost never happens. Like my grandmother used to say “it’s just like a broken record.”

  24. mike

    Where do you buy groceries now? I know that as a Wethersfield resident my wife or I typically drive about 3-5 miles to the grocery store. What makes you assume that downtown residents cant do the same?

    also, most grocery stores deliver. I see the Peapod truck downtown all the time delivering groceries.

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