Financing Set For First CRDA Hartford Housing Conversion

by Categorized: Downtown Hartford, Hartford Redevelopment Date:

The first of a growing number of housing conversion projects in downtown Hartford now has all its financing in place, and it could also be the first to welcome tenants.

The $5.3 million conversion of the former Masonic Temple at 201 Ann Uccello St. into 26, market-rate apartments will begin with initial interior demolition Thursday and is expected to be completed in a year. All of the apartments are one-bedroom units.

201 Ann Uccello St., Hartford. Photo by Rick Hartford/rhartford@courant.com.

201 Ann Uccello St., Hartford. Photo by Rick Hartford/rhartford@courant.com.

The project is the first of those funded by the Capital Region Development Authority to secure all its financing, including a $3.8 million construction loan from the authority. A final agreement on the financing was reached late Tuesday.

“This particular building is classic Hartford stock,” Michael W. Freimuth, the authority’s executive director, told me. “Three-four story walk-up, former commercial ‘B’ space. Apartments are making it work in a new way that is very practical, very pragmatic.”

CRDA has a goal of adding about 2,000 housing units to the downtown area in the next five years. Projects in various stages of obtaining financing now total over 1,000 units.

CRDA’s has $60 million in funds to foster housing in downtown Hartford, a strategy to boost the area’s residential base and, in turn, its vibrancy. But the CRDA also hopes that the conversion of older buildings will boost their value and the tax revenue generated for the city.

Developer Yisroel Rabinowitz of Brooklyn, N.Y. told me that he has owned the building for about five years, leasing the upper floors to commercial tenants. The building was typically three-quarters leased but finding tenants was tough, he said.

“The Hartford office market has been challenging for quite a while now,” Rabinowitz said.

Rabinowitz said he jumped at the chance to convert the building to housing when state financing became available. He said he believes the demand is there, expecially for one-bedroom units. He was able to increase the number of units from 22 to 26, after scrapping plans for two-bedroom apartments.

Once construction is completed and tenants start moving in, the CRDA’s construction loan will be refinanced to a $3.2 million mortgage from a private lender and a second mortgage from CRDA of $750,000.

The project also has qualified for $800,000 in state historic tax credits, with the balance private equity and bank financing.

The apartments will have an average size of 734 square feet with an average monthly rent of about $1,300, not including utilities. Rabinowitz said he is negotiating with parking lot operators nearby for a discount rate for tenants.

Freimuth said a second housing project that would create 63, market-rate apartments at 179 Allyn St. — the former Professional Building — could button-up its financing in the next few weeks.

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