Hope For Homeownership On One Hartford Street

by Categorized: Hartford Redevelopment Date:

 

These two Civil War-era buildings in the Frog Hollow neighborhood have be renovated and will be sold to first-time home buyers. Photo Courtesy of SINA.

These two Civil War-era buildings in the Frog Hollow neighborhood have be renovated and will be sold to first-time home buyers. Photo Courtesy of SINA.

The two apartment buildings at the corner of Wolcott and Ward streets were built when Abraham Lincoln occupied the White House, but up until a year ago, the properties in Frog Hollow also appeared headed for the history books.

“They wouldn’t have lasted another winter,” Dean A. Iaiennaro, director of real estate development at Southside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance, told me.

But instead of their demise, SINA on Wednesday showcased a $1 million rehabilitation of the two buildings — now converted to four, two-family houses that will be sold to first-time home buyers.

Buildings on Wolcott Street before rehabilitation project. Photo Courtesy of SINA.

Buildings on Wolcott Street before rehabilitation project. Photo Courtesy of SINA.

The project is being hailed by preservationists who argued the buildings were a example of Civil War-era architecture in Hartford, a time when there was a building boom in the city. For SINA, a non-profit neighborhood group,  it accomplishes a larger goal: increasing the dismal rate of homeownership in the city.

For more than a decade, the buildings, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, were vacant and abandoned. A fire had damaged one, and homeless lived in the basement of the other. The city had moved to demolish them more than once. Everyone agreed they were a blight.

Iaiennaro said he was convinced that another harsh winter would have led to a roof collapse.

Originally built as duplexes,  41-45 and 47-49 Wolcott  were later carved up into six apartments each. The rehabilitation has restored their initial configuration with a twist: each half now contains a two-family house with the owner on the top two floors and a renter on the first.

Kitchen and dining room in one of the two-family houses. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com

Kitchen and dining room in one of the two-family houses. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com

Work on the buildings began in late 2011, with shoring up weakened walls, roofs, and foundations. But rehabilitation only began after months of trying to gain ownership of the properties.

Tax liens had been sold by the city to third parties, so SINA had to buy them back and then pursue foreclosure, Iaiennaro told me.

Once renovation began, much attention was given to architectural detail on the exterior, restoring porches and windows with those typical of the era. Years of neglect on the inside left little of the original character, so interiors have undergone a complete makeover with an emphasis on energy-efficiency, Iaiennaro said.

The rehabilitation costs were financed partly with state historic home tax credits, enabling each two-family house to be sold at $200,000. Funding also was provided by SINA, the city of Hartford, the Local Initiatives Support Corp. and Connecticut Light & Power Co., which bought the credits.

Buyers must earn less than 80 percent of the median area income, or about $64,400 for a family of four, SINA said.

SINA works in partnership with Hartford Hospital, The Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and Trinity College.

Melvyn Colon, SINA’s executive director, told me SINA isn’t stopping with the two buildings. It has plans to build similar housing on the same street on vacant lots, one to be acquired from the city and another, hopefully, from a private owner.

Homeownership has been shown to foster pride in neighborhoods and their appearance, Colon said. The homeownership rate in Hartford is woefully low at just 32 percent and this area of Frog Hollow even lower, at 10 percent, he said.

That compares with West Hartford, at more than 70 percent, Colon said.

“There’s a lot of work that needs to still go on here,” Colon said.

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5 thoughts on “Hope For Homeownership On One Hartford Street

  1. Dolly

    As a life-long resident of Hartford I was excited to read about this project, especially because what it means to families who want to stay in the city and fulfill the American Dream of Homeownership.

  2. Joseph

    A block away from Broad Street and not too far from Park, Gee, really? Oh, and don’t forget two blocks from where that lady was found murdered in an alley between to more abandone houses. The first thing that’s going to happen is the places might get broken into or their cars will. Either way, you have to fix the rest of the neighborhood and the area before you can expect people to live in Frog Hollow. They are vacant for a reason: no one wants to be victimized by the neighborhood parasites that ALREADY RESIDE there, and there are tons of them on Broad street. Being naive is one thing, but being Stupid, damn!!!

  3. Mortson St. Owner

    Hopefully they did a better job than the “rehab” they did on the Putnam Heights and Mortson St. buildings. We have had nothing but problems. The workmanship done can at best be classified as poor. The city and the agencys involved with the Putnam Heights and Mortson St. “rehab” have not been helpful since day one. They’ve suckered us. SMH.

    1. Joshua LaPorte

      I also own a home which was renovated by one of the development agencies in the city, and my home has also been plagued with issues. I’ve received some assistance from the people who sold me the home but much of the repair work has been done poorly. I wish the City would try to focus available funding for preservation to homeowners who can supervise the work themselves to make sure that they get a good product and a good value. A freshly renovated home should not be riddled with issues from day one. I think these agencies (SINA, NINA) mean well but need better construction managers and trades people working on their projects.

  4. sharpshooter

    Seems that the best restorations in Frog Hollow have been the lawyer and legislative offices that have become a mainstay on Hugerford and surronding streets. Selling frog hollow outside of the professional investment area will be a hard sell,unless owners get a mortage they can’t refuse…

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