The conversion of the former Sonesta Hotel on Hartford’s Constitution Plaza into apartments is kicking into high-gear now that the developers have lined up all their financing for the $28 million project.
Some demolition got underway in October, but with financing in place as of late last week, the developers are expecting the construction of 193 apartments to be completed in May, 2015.
Jeffrey D. Ravetz, president of New York-based Girona Ventures, told me he and his partner in the conversion, Wonder Works Construction and Development Corp., are even more bullish on Hartford than they were in 2011 when they paid $500,000 for the long-vacant, 12-story hotel.
“Hartford is stronger than when we first bought the building,” Ravetz said. “There’s a lot of positive momentum. We’re excited about the project.”
The Sonesta is the largest of three state-subsidized apartment conversions now underway in downtown Hartford, all aimed at attracting more people to live in downtown and boost vibrancy beyond the work day and on weekends. The city also hopes for a bump in much-needed tax with the conversions eventually boosting property values.
Developers and state officials say there is demand for more downtown apartments,especially studio and one-bedroom units. The market is, as yet, untested.
The state funding includes $4 million in affordable housing funds from the state and another $2 million “bridge loan” from the Capital Region Development Authority. The loan is intended to cover funding that would have been provided by federal historic rehabilitation tax credits.
Investors in the tax credit program have retreated to the sidelines until the Internal Revenue Service issues guidance on potential changes in the program based on a court ruling in New Jersey.
The Sonesta conversion is expected to create 54 studios, 118 one-bedroom units, seven one bedrooms with a den and 14 two-bedroom units. Of the 193 units, 32 are rent restricted based on income and the remainder are market-rate.
The average size of the units is 636 square feet, with market-rate rents expected to range from $800 to $1800. Parking will be in the Constitution Plaza garage and partially subsidized by the rent. Amenities are expected to include a theater room, a health club and bike storage.
The hotel building has been vacant for 17 years.