LAZ Parking Closing Hartford Garage To Explore Redevelopment

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:

A parking garage at the corner of Market and Talcott streets in downtown Hartford will close this summer, while the owner works with the city on plans for revitalizing the block just north of the G. Fox building.

The garage at One Talcott Plaza, shown here from Main Street, will close later this summer. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com.

The garage at One Talcott Plaza, shown here from Main Street, will close later this summer. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com.

LAZ Parking has owned the 760-space parking garage, part of One Talcott Plaza, since 2011. LAZ said Wednesday the garage is “structurally sound” but in need of major repairs.

One Talcott Plaza, which is located between Market and Main streets, was among the 13 sites in downtown Hartford proposed as a site for relocating the University of Connecticut’s campus in West Hartford to downtown. UConn eventually chose the former Hartford Times property near Front Street.

In addition to the parking garage, One Talcott Plaza also contains 103,000 square feet of now-vacant office space. There also is a parking lot on the Main Street end of the property.

A rendering of the roposed University of Connecticut branch at the corner of Main and Talcott streets in downtown Hartford.

A rendering of the proposed University of Connecticut branch at the corner of Main and Talcott streets in downtown Hartford.

The garage is now working to relocate 500 monthly parkers who use Talcott to other LAZ garages and lots in downtown.

The property will be a key link between downtown and the area just to the north, known as Downtown North. Downtown North is the site of a proposed minor league baseball park.

 

 

 

 

SunTrust To Pay Almost $1B Over Home Foreclosure, Servicing Practices

by Categorized: Mortgage Fraud Settlement, Uncategorized Date:

A major mortgage servicer has reached a $968 million settlement with federal authorities and 49 states — including Connecticut — over abusive home lending, servicing and foreclosing practices, it was announced Tuesday.

SunTrust Banks Inc. has reached a three-year settlement with federal regulators, attorneys general in 49 states and the District of Columbia that includes $550 million for borrowers who suffered foreclosure abuses.

The settlement provides for direct cash payments to some borrowers for foreclosure abuses, plus loan modifications and other relief. In addition, SunTrust must comply with stricter mortgage servicing standards, subject to review by an independent mortgage monitor.

“While we cannot prevent every home foreclosure, attorneys general from across the country — in partnership with the federal government — continue to hold servicers accountable and to provide relief to families wherever possible,” Jepsen said.

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said about 150 borrowers in the state could qualify for a cash payment as a result of the settlement with SunTrust.

Jepsen’s office could not estimate Tuesday Connecticut’s share of the $550 million, but the state’s share is expected to be modest because SunTrust does not have a branch presence in the state.

Eligible borrowers will be contacted on how to apply for payments under the settlement. Current Suntrust borrowers can contact the the bank at 1-800-634-7928 or by email through the “Support” page at www.SunTrustMortgage.com with questions about principal reductions and loan modifications.

In a statement, SunTrust said Tuesday it is addressing problems in its mortgage servicing business, including underwriting and “internal controls.”

The settlement follows a landmark national mortgage settlement with major servicers in 2012. The settlement has provided $51 billion in relief to borrowers nationally and about $450 million to almost 6,300 borrowers in Connecticut, Jepsen said.

 

 

 

 

Partners May Redevelop Rundown Hartford Housing Complex

by Categorized: Hartford Redevelopment Date:

Hartford’s housing authority has selected a Connecticut-based partnership as the preferred developer of the rundown Chester Bowles Park public housing complex in the city’s North End.

Overlook Village Redevelopment Associates LP would redevelop the 59-building, 410-unit complex on 61 acres off Albany Avenue for housing, if final negotiations with the authority are successful.

The partnership includes The Richman Group Development Corp., JHM Financial Group, LLC, Imagineers LLC and Nutmeg Planners LLC.

Bowles Park is part of a larger, 130 acres that includes another public housing complex, Westbrook Village. Last summer, the authority sought redevelopment proposals that would have covered both complexes, but it was disappointed that only five proposals were submitted.

Earlier this year, the authority chose to split the project in half, first concentrating on Bowles Park.

Bowles Park, the authority has said, could be an extension of the Blue Hills residential neighborhood, while Westbrook Village, bordering on Albany Avenue, a main thoroughfare, could be mixed-used with housing and retail.

“We believe this development team brings forth a proven track record of developing complex urban projects, Annette Sanderson, the housing authority’s executive director, said, in a release. “Furthermore, the development team has demonstrated its ability to engage with the overall community during the development process.”

Sanderson could not immediately be reached for further comment Tuesday.

For years, the redevelopment of the two complexes has been a goal of the housing authority.

Both contain brick, two-story apartment buildings, most with four units. The complexes date from the 1950s and were among the few state-financing housing projects in the city. They were originally built for moderate-income tenants.

Only about 250 of the 770 apartments, or 30 percent, are now occupied.

Development Eludes Small Patch Of Hartford Parking Known as ’12B’

by Categorized: Downtown Hartford, Hartford Redevelopment Date:

The small patch of urban surface parking in downtown Hartford at the corner of Main and Morgan streets — known as 12B — once again caught headlines, this time as a site considered for a proposed $60 million ballpark for the New Britain Rock Cats.

The city ultimately chose a neighboring site, adding another project to a list of proposals for 12B that never became reality.

But where exactly is 12B? I asked three different people after a press conference on the stadium, and I got three different answers.

So I went to City Clerk John Bazzano, and he pulled out the maps for me. The parcel, he noted, is the parking lot that backs up the Radisson Hotel, formerly the Crowne Plaza.

Here is the map:

The parcel outlined in yellow is the proposed minor league baseball stadium. The parcel just to the south across Trumbull Street is 12B. Map courtesy of the City of Hartford.

The parcel outlined in yellow is the proposed minor league baseball stadium. The parcel just to the south across Trumbull Street is 12B. Map courtesy of the City of Hartford.

The 12B parcel was once described as the Charlie Brown of Hartford development sites. In the past 15 years, there have been a half-dozen proposals, none of them becoming reality:

  • 2004: WFSB, Channel 3 abandons plans to build a broadcast studio on the site, saying it is too small to accommodate the stations needs. WFSB eventually moves out of Constitution Plaza and out of Hartford, relocating to Rocky Hill.
  • 2000: Mayor Michael P. peters considers the site for a $20 million minor league baseball stadium.
  • 1998: City council studies site for a new city hall.
  • 1997: Officials consider site for new convention center and $374 million stadium for the New England Patriots. Site loses out to 30-acre Adriaen’s Landing near riverfront. Convention Center built but Patriots do not leave Massachusetts.
  • 1995: With the Hartford Civic Center, now XL Center, aging, 12B is considered for a 40,000-seat domed arena to become new home of UConn men’s basketball, the Hartford Whalers and others.
  • 1993: Businessman Francis W. Murray and the state fail to lure the Patriots to 12B, the chosen site for a 70,000-seat, $252 million open-air stadium.

 

The downtown Hartford parcel known as 12B. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com.

The downtown Hartford parcel known as 12B from across Morgan Street. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Stylish Redo At Hartford Residence Inn, But What Style Is It?

by Categorized: Downtown Hartford, Hartford Redevelopment Date:

A $3-million plus renovation of The Residence Inn by Marriott in downtown Hartford’s Richardson Building includes a makeover of the lobby and suites in cool grays, vibrant turquoise and pops of orange.

Geometric shapes abound and some of the furniture looks to be a twist on mid-century modern.

But what is the style of the redo?

The lobby of the renovated Residence Inn by Marriott in downtown Hartford. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com

The lobby of the renovated Residence Inn by Marriott in downtown Hartford. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com

Hotel employees, at a reception Wednesday night marking the renovations, took a stab: contemporary, but, no, that sounds, too drab; maybe, Marriott Modern because the hospitality company mandates the colors but leaves furniture and other choices to each hotel.

Finally, Mayor Pedro E. Segarra, a speaker at the festivities, finally observed: “It’s a cross between South Beach and L.A.”

No matter the style, the renovations are the second makeover since the upper-floors of the historic brownstone Richardson Building on Main Street were converted from apartments to 120 extended-stay suites in the late 1990s at a cost of $13.5 million. The Residence Inn opened in 2000.

“I didn’t think what we had previously was dated or shabby, but now that it is done, it is so dramatic,”  Marc S. Levine, one of the owners, told me.

Director of Sales Lisa McIntyre in one of the renovated suites. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com.

Director of Sales Lisa McIntyre in one of the renovated suites. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com.

Levine said Marriott requires renovations every six years for hotels bearing its flag, or the property risks losing the right to use the Marriott name.

Len Wolman, chairman and chief executive of The Waterford Group, said the Residence Inn typically has an occupancy around 75 percent, higher than most city hotels. He notes that 40 percent of guests are “extended stay,” meaning five days or longer.

Waterford has an ownership stake in the hotel and also manages it.

The renovations inside stand in sharp contrast to the 138-year old Romanesque Revival stone facade of the exterior. The style is influenced by medieval European architecture, mostly of the 10th and 11th centuries, and is characterized by heavy-walled masonry construction, often of roughly cut stone.

Henry Hobson Richardson, a well-known 19th-century architect, designed the building at 942 Main St.  The facade features three layers of arches that grow smaller and more numerous with each horizontal level.

The exterior of the historic Richardson Building in downtown Hartford. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com.

The exterior of the historic Richardson Building in downtown Hartford. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com.

When department stores dominated this area of Main Street, the building was home to Brown, Thomson & Co. Today, City Steam has been a longtime, street-level tenant and Hartford Stage uses a portion of the building for rehearsal space.

All the suites have new granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances, accent walls and new furnishings. Mid-week rates range from $279 to $299 a night, but decline with longer stays, Lisa McIntyre, director of sales, told me.

“With all the things happening in Hartford, we should be getting a refresh, too,” Levine told me.

 

 

Connecticut Home Sales In April Fall For First Time In More Than A Year

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:

Connecticut home sales in April slowed for the first time in more than a year, a sign that the upward momentum in the past two years could be slowing, a new report today shows.

In April, sales of single-family houses statewide fell 8 percent, to 1,816 compared with 1,973 for the same month a year ago, according to the monthly report from The Warren Group, which tracks housing trends in New England.

The median sale price — in which half the sales are above, half below — also fell, down 2 percent, to $245,000, from $250,000 a year ago.

Timothy M. Warren Jr., chief executive of The Warren Group, said sales were “disappointing sluggish” in April, reflecting a slowdown in buying and selling in the winter months. Sales that closed in April went under contract 60 to 90 days prior.

April sales provided a weak lead in to the spring home buying season, typically the strongest of the year. But Warren said he wasn’t ready to declare a slowdown just yet.

“We’ll have to wait for the summer months to gauge sales during the big spring selling season,” Warren said.

The decline in the median sale price reflects just how difficult it has been for the housing market to recover from the last recession, Warren said, which has been marked by equally sluggish job growth.

 

 

 

 

 

Hartford Cultural Center Says It Has Right Space For XL Center Mural

by Categorized: XL Center Date:

Finding a new home for the two Romare Bearden murals at Hartford’s XL Center has been complicated by their size, the larger being 16 feet by 10 feet.

But Dollie McLean says she has the perfect location: an equally enormous empty wall inside the front entrance of the Artists Collective, an African American cultural and teaching center on Albany Avenue.

“I purposely left this wall blank and now I know why: it’s for Bearden’s work,” McLean told me. “I would really like to see a piece of that art here. He would have wanted his work in this community.”

McLean, who founded the Collective with her late husband, jazz great Jackie McLean, said the Collective has strong ties with Bearden, dating back to the organization’s first open house in 1974. The open house featured a showing of Bearden prints titled “The Black Experience.”

McLean said she encouraged Bearden to take the commission for the murals in 1980. The McLeans kept in touch with Bearden until his death in 1988.

In 1986, Jackie McLean and Bearden, part of the Harlem Renaissance movement, performed together at the Wadsworth Atheneum. McLean played his alto saxophone while Bearden created improvisational drawings.

The Bearden murals at Hartford's XL Center were commissioned by the city in 1980. Photo by Brad Horrigan/bhorrigan@courant.com

The Bearden murals at Hartford’s XL Center were commissioned by the city in 1980. Photo by Brad Horrigan/bhorrigan@courant.com

The murals need to be relocated from the XL Center because of an ongoing $35 million renovation project and aren’t being incorporated into the redesign of the concourse where they now hang.

But there is some sentiment that the murals should be returned in the future, if a new sports arena is built or the existing one is expanded significantly beyond the scope of the current renovations.

Kimberly C. Hart, venue director for the Capital Region Development Authority, which oversees XL, told me the Hartford Public Library is the preferred location. But Hart said she is visiting the Artists Collective next week to look at the space.

Supporters of moving the murals to the library say that option would finally fulfill the original intent of the murals, commissioned as public art. Even before the murals were hung at the Hartford arena, there were questions raised about the appropriateness of venue. To see them, the public needed to buy an entry ticket.

“We have a lot of people going in and out here,” McLean said. “And we have a lot of young people going in and out.”

The two murals — commissioned for $100,000 — were appraised this month for $4.2 million. While that is one indicator of the value of Bearden’s work, McLean said she sees a far more important one: the inspiration it could provide for young, aspiring artists at the Collective.

“It was sad that the work was there,” McLean said, “and no one knew who he was.”

 

 

 

Restoration Work Begins On New London Lighthouse

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:

The restoration of the New London Harbor Light will begin this weekend, after a year-long fundraising campaign raised $150,000.

New London Harbor Light will undergo exterior renovations. Photo Credit: handout

New London Harbor Light will undergo exterior renovations. Photo Credit: handout

The exterior of the 89-foot brownstone and brick lighthouse, built in 1801, will be cleaned, re-pointed and repainted over the next six to eight weeks, according to the lighthouse’s owner, the New London Maritime Society.

The lighthouse will be closed to visitors while the work is completed.

See a photo gallery of Connecticut lighthouses.

The society, which has owned and managed the lighthouse since 2010, is now trying to raise an additional $38,000 for further repairs, including the construction of a masonry walkway on the ledge surrounding the lighthouse and replastering the lookout landing inside the lighthouse.

The lookout landing has some of the most severe cracks in the entire lighthouse.

The New London Harbor Light — the oldest and tallest lighthouse on Long Island Sound — was featured on a forever stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service.

Read about two Connecticut lighthouses that are being offered this summer by the federal government.

 

 

 

State-Sponsored Event Targets Homeowners Struggling With Mortgages

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:

The seventh in a series of state-sponsored events for homeowners struggling to pay their mortgages will be held Friday at the Trumbull Marriott.

The event, which gives borrowers the opportunity to meet face-to-face with banks and loan servicers, will run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The goal of the event is to help borrowers explore options for loan modifications, foreclosure prevention or other alternatives.

Among the loan servicers that are sending representatives are: Bank of America, CitiMortgage, Fannie Mae, Green Tree Servicing, HSBC National Bank USA, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Nationstar Mortgage, Ocwen Loan Servicing, People’s United Bank, U.S. Bank Home Mortgage, Webster Bank and Wells Fargo Bank.

In addition, the event will include HUD-approved housing counselors, the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, pro bono attorneys and court foreclosure mediators.

Those who attend are encouraged to bring as much of the required paperwork as possible, key to getting answers quickly. For more information about what paperwork is needed or the event itself, visit www.ct.gov/dob or call the state banking department at 860-240-8170 or toll-free at 1-877-472-8313.