The $78 million redevelopment of the former Bank of America tower on Main Street in downtown Hartford has won the financial backing of the Capital Region Development Authority.
The authority Wednesday agreed to a financing package consisting of $7.5 million in equity and a second mortgage of $10 million for a conversion of the now vacant building into apartment and retail space. The package still needs the approval of the State Bond Commission.
Michael W. Freimuth, CRDA’s executive director, told me today the equity investment would return cash payments to the authority if the project becomes profitable. If the converted tower was sold, the investment would have to be repaid, the proceeds going back to finance more housing in the city, Freimuth said.
The project would convert 350,000 square feet of vacant office space into a “mixed-used residential tower” that includes 286 apartments and 35,000 square feet of retail space.
Of the apartments, 20 percent would be rent regulated — but not subsidized — for low- and moderate-income families.
Other pieces of the project’s financing package must still fall into place, including a $37 million bank mortgage, federal historic tax credits of $14.3 million and state historic tax credits of $4.5 million.
(The developer argues that the 26-story tower is historic because it was designed by Welton Becket & Associates, which designed the iconic Capitol Records tower in Hollywood.)
The package is rounded out by a $3.9 million loan from the state Department of Economic and Community Development.
Developer Bruce Becker, of Becker + Becker of Fairfield, did not return a telephone call today seeking comment. Becker developed the 360 State St. apartment tower in New Haven, now the city’s tallest residential building.
Work on the conversion could begin this spring if financing falls into place, Freimuth said.
Freimuth said he first realized how crucial it was to redevelop the building while watching television one night. There was a shot of the Hartford skyline and there was a big, dark hole in the middle. It was 777 Main.
“We want to get housing downtown. This is in the middle of downtown,” Freimuth said. “If there are things that you’ve got to do, this is one of them.”