When The Hollander in downtown Hartford was converted to apartments and reopened in 2009, it took less than 10 months for the 70 residential units to lease up, some at market rates and some for households with lower incomes.
Owner Common Ground has had a far tougher time leasing 12,000 square feet of street-level commercial space at the 410 Asylum St. building. The space has remained empty for nearly three years, as plans for a grocery store, restaurant and bookstore did not come together.
But now, the building, at the corner of High and Asylum streets across from Bushnell Park, is getting its first tenant — a law firm — and another tenant is expected in the near future, Common Ground confirmed today.
The law firm, Madsen, Prestley & Parenteau, will occupy nearly 2,800 square feet of space right at the corner. The firm now has offices in New London and Hartford; the Hartford office will relocate to The Hollander.
Common Ground declined to name the other potential tenant, but its director of real estate development said there were on-going discussions with an office furniture design company and a financial services firm.
“We originally thought entertainment, we thought we might get a restaurant,” David Beer, director of real estate development, told me today. “There was more interest from office type users.”
Beer said the pick-up in leasing is partly because Common Ground had been trying to interest potential tenants itself, only six months ago hiring commercial real estate services firm CBRE. Common Ground invested $22 million in the rehab after the Hollander Family donated the building.
Monday, workers were installing framing and duct work in the space the law firm hopes to occupy by Sept. 1.
Jacques Parenteau, a founding member of the boutique firm that focuses on employee law and complaints, told me today the firm has been looking for more than a year for new office quarters. The firm was attracted by the environmentally-conscious rehab of the building by Common Ground and the non-profit’s mission to end homelessness.
“The building itself is quite attractive,” Parenteau said. “We like the historic nature of it right across from the park. We also like being on the storefront level, close to the people that we serve.”
The location would seem a natural for a restaurant, given the views of the park and the State Capitol. But it remains a challenge to bring retail tenants downtown, even with prime locations, CBRE’s Alexis Augsberger told me.
“The retail market has been slow,” Augsberger said.
A grocery store two blocks away in the Hartford 21 tower closed permanently in December, after being open just six months. A new operator has yet to step forward.
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