As an office building owner in downtown Hartford for the past six years, Yisroel Rabinowitz struggled with leasing through the worst of the recession.
But now that Rabinowitz’s building at 201 Ann Uccello St. — the former Masonic Temple — is now in the throes of conversion into 26, market-rate apartments, Rabinowitz said he is more upbeat about the city’s prospects than he’s ever been.
“We’re on the go,” Rabinowitz said during a tour of the building for members of the Capital Region Development Authority Thursday night. The authority has provided a $3.8 million construction loan for the $5.3 million project.
The building has been gutted down to the brick walls and framing of the apartments in in its early stages. On the top floor, wooden and iron trusses — long buried in the walls of offices that once occupied the space — will be left exposed in some cases, incorporated into apartment designs.
Rabinowitz said he is aiming to begin marketing the apartments in the spring.
“By this time next year, people should be living here,” Rabinowitz told CRDA members.
CRDA has a goal of adding about 2,000 housing units to the downtown area in the next five years. In addition to 201 Ann Uccello, conversions are now underway at 179 Allyn St. and the former Sonesta Hotel on Constitution Plaza, for a total of 300 apartments. Another 700 are on the drawing boards.
CRDA has $60 million in funds to foster housing in the downtown area, a strategy to boost the area’s residential base and, in turn, its vibrancy. But CRDA also hopes the conversion of older building will boost their value and the tax revenue generated for the city.
At 201 Ann Uccello, the apartments will have an average size of 734 square feet with an average monthly rent of $1,300, not including utilities.
On Thursday’s tour, CRDA members admired the exposed brick walls and observed that they would be attractive in the apartments.
Unfortunately, Rabinowitz said, the brick will be covered because the state historic tax rehabilitation credit helping to finance the project require the walls be returned to their original appearance. The space in the building, dating to the 1890s, has always been finished off, he said.