Category Archives: Real Estate

Marlin Firearms’ Former Building Sale To Bring Jobs To State

by Categorized: Manufacturing, Real Estate Date:

The building in North Haven that was vacated by Marlin Firearms in 2011 has been sold to a New Haven manufacturing company consolidating its operations — a move that will mean about 60 added jobs in the region.

C. Cowles & Co., a New Haven metal-stamping company with several affiliated businesses, bought the former Marlin property — 226,000 square feet on a 23-acre parcel, built in 1968 — for $1.7 million, according to Binswanger, the commercial real estate firm that brokered the sale.

Only in New England would we see a historic company exit a factory — Marlin was founded by a former Colt employee in 1870 — and be replaced by an even older company. Cowles started in 1838 as a maker of lanterns for horse-drawn carriages and has been in the Elm City ever since.

Cowles’ website lists six operating businesses including Cowles Stamping Inc., which produces parts for the automotive industry.  Five of the six are in New Haven but a sixth, Carlin Combustion Technology Inc., which makes burners and related components for  heating systems, is in East Longmeadow, Mass.

Carlin has about 60 employees and is also moving to the new location, people at C. Cowles said.  I couldn’t reach the president but two people said the move was happening this summer.

Marlin was acquired by Remington Arms in 2008. Remington, owned by the Freedom Group, which also owns Bushmaster and other firearms makers, said in 2010 it would consolidate operations and close the North Haven plant, which had 265 employees at the time.

Freedom Group’s owner, the prominent private equity firm Cerberus Capital, said after the Newtown tragedy that it would sell the firearms businesses; Cerberus’ founder and CEO, Stephen Feinberg, is the son of a Newtown resident. But Cerberus, reportedly seeking very high multiples of annual profits, has not yet done so.

Marlin had been bought out of bankruptcy in 1924 by Frank Kenna, whose family operated the business until the 2008 sale. The building is located on Kenna Drive.

State Offers $6.5M To Corporate Relocation Firm To Stay — And Grow

by Categorized: Economic Development, Real Estate Date:

No one knows how to move out of state like the folks at Cartus Corp., a Danbury company that offers relocation services such as home-buying and rentals to corporations.

So the state stepped in with a $6.5 million forgivable loan at 2 percent interest after Cartus, a longtime Connecticut presence, thought hard about moving to Texas or New York.  Cartus will keep the whole $6.5 million if it maintains its current local staff of 1,275 and adds at least 200 more people in the next five years.

Cartus will also invest $15.4 million in a facilities upgrade, as part of its state-aided expansion. And if the company keeps its staff intact for five years and doesn’t add more people, it will be allowed to keep $1.95 million of the loan principal.

All in all it’s a good deal for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the state taxpayers, a cost of about $32,000 per new job if Cartus adds 200, or $4,400 for each job added or retained if we count 1,475 present and future jobs.

The deal is not part of Malloy’s “First Five” program, also called “Next Five,” because the total invested by Cartus is less than the threshold for that program. But each deal is custom-designed anyway.

And for each deal, we ask, would the company have really left? That’s the question we can never answer. Cartus and its parent company, Realogy Holdings Corp., were part of the old Cendant Corp., which broke up a few years ago. Realogy, traded on the New York Stock Exchange, also owns Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, CENTURY 21, Coldwell Banker, ERA, Sotheby’s International and other real estate businesses.

“Cartus has been proud to call Connecticut home for nearly 60 years, and we are committed to growing our operations here,” said Kevin Kelleher, the Cartus CEO “This new investment will position the company for future success.”

Now that Cartus is staying, we’ll have a home run if Malloy and his economic development commissioner, Catherine Smith, can get Cartus to move more people into Connecticut than out.

 

 

 

CareCentrix To Add 150 Downtown Hartford Jobs In 2014

by Categorized: Economic Development, Health Care, Real Estate Date:

CareCentrix, the health care management company that moved from East Hartford to downtown Hartford in 2012, is aiming to add 150 local jobs in 2014 and is taking an additional floor of the “Stilts” building at 20 Church St.

The new jobs, largely staffing the company’s call center operations but also including management, would bring the total staff in downtown Hartford to 500 — three years before the company said it would reach that number in an agreement with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy for $24 million in state aid.

It is, in short, one of Malloy’s successes in the First Five program, though the price Malloy paid — $80,000 per new job, or $48,000 per job including those that were already in Connecticut — is considered steep, especially since many of the jobs pay less than $40,000 a year.

CareCentrix, which manages home health care, also has large operations in the Tampa, Fla. area, where costs are lower. The company could have moved its headquarters there or elsewhere, and then-CEO Eric Reimer told The Courant’s Mara Lee in early 2013 that the labor cost difference was a big factor in the company’s ability to extract the $24 million from Malloy.

For the state, the numbers add up based on the taxes paid and purchases made by the employees. Adding life to downtown Hartford boosts the economic value of the jobs if it helps the city center attract more people from out of the region.

The firm also fits with the economic development strategy for Metro Hartford, and especially downtown, as a center for health care management — anchored by the health insurers.

“Connecticut has a proud history of supporting health care companies. We are honored to be part of this history as we continue to grow,” said John Driscoll, CareCentrix CEO, in a written statement.

The company scheduled an event on Tuesday at 1 p.m. to mark its lease of a new floor at 20 Church Street. CareCentrix now occupies floors 9, 11 and 12 for a total of 73,000 square feet, a spokeswoman said. “Stay tuned for more details on an upcoming job fair,” she said.

Mayor Pedro Segarra, who was set to be at Tuesday’s event, had said recently that a company planned to bring about 200 jobs downtown. He didn’t name the firm.

It’s unclear whether Segarra was referring to CareCenrix, or CohnReznick, the accounting and management consulting firm that said this month it will consolidate offices in Glastonbury and Farmington to Metro Center, down church Street from the Stilts Building, with about 200 employees and the promise to add 40 more in exchange for a state loan of $1.2 million.

Or, Segarra might have been talking about a third firm that we haven’t yet heard about.

Back9Network Moving Ahead With $7.5M Constitition Plaza Studio, Fox Sports Deal

by Categorized: Entertainment/Tourism, Media, Real Estate, Telecommunications Date:
Artist rendering of Back9Network studio at Constitution Plaza in downtown Hartford. Courtesy of Back9Network

Artist rendering of Back9Network studio at Constitution Plaza in downtown Hartford.
Courtesy of Back9Network

A lot of people in Hartford have been skeptical about progress at Back9Network, the golf lifestyle media outlet with a flashy culture, a plan for a studio on Constitution Plaza and the goal of launching a cable TV channel.

Back9 founder and CEO James L. Bosworth Jr. had hoped to have a cable deal and a working studio on the plaza in 2013, and neither one happened, fueling fears that the capital city would once again find itself snakebitten.

But I spoke with Bosworth on the day Comcast and Time Warner Cable announced their $45 billion merger — which could greatly affect Back9 — and he had plenty of good news to report.

That studio space in the former Spris restaurant location, briefly Braza, is not only going to open, Bosworth said, but it’s more than halfway there.  Without making any announcements, the company has spent $4.5 million toward the $7.5 million total cost of the studio, starting in 2012.

The firm is now seeking approval from the city of Hartford for exterior signs and large “video boards” that need a special permit, Bosworth said, and Hartford’s development director, Thomas Deller, confirmed.

A decision will take at least two months, Deller said.

CEO James Bosworth Jr. Nick Caito photo courtesy of Back9Network

CEO James Bosworth Jr.
Nick Caito photo courtesy of Back9Network

With no city permits in hand, there’s no timetable for an opening of the 6,500-square-foot space. An artist rendering shows a sign on the outside, “Clint Eastwood Studio,” which might make sense since the iconic Hollywood star is a shareholder and adviser to Back9.  But the name on the rendering is just a visual device, Bosworth said.

What’s real, he said, is the company’s progress even without a cable deal.  Back9 is up to 43 employees at its offices and smaller studio space on the 10th floor of the Phoenix “Boat Building” across Constitution Plaza, and on the road making content about the culture and lifestyle of golf. Its web page, www.back9network.com, is up to 600,000 unique visitors a month, he said, with videos, stories, photo galleries and other features added every day.

Early next week Back9 will announce a new deal with FOXSports.com and Yardbarker, a Fox-owned blog site, in which Back9 stories and other content will appear on the Fox web sites, editors will collaborate and the companies will share advertising revenue.

Back9 would like to appeal to women, especially younger ones, not just the middle-aged men who make up the bulk of golfers. To that end, Back9 this week added reality TV star Audrina Patridge to its talent roster.

Audrina Patridge Courtesy of Back9Network

Audrina Patridge
Courtesy of Back9Network

Those two developments could give Back9 significant added exposure — and would be part of the company’s “what if” strategy of growing as an online-only platform, called “over the top” in the media industry.

The goal, of course, remains for Back9 to be a cable TV channel. And the planned buyout of Time Warner Cable by Comcast complicates matters.  The reason: Among all of the national cable TV and satellite companies in talks with Back9, Time Warner is the one that seems most excited about the channel, Bosworth said Thursday.

That does not mean a deal is near — Bosworth was adamant on that point.

“You’re never quite sure because they’re negotiations,” he said. “But outwardly, in terms of response and engagement, we’ve probably had the most momentum with Time Warner Cable.”

Comcast, by contrast, which owns the Golf Channel, told Bosworth and his team outright that it would not launch Back9.

Back9 has also had talks with DirecTV and Stamford-based Charter, among others. As Back9 builds an audience, the TV industry is starting to see the value of a network devoted to the stories and expensive lifestyles tied to golf, Bosworth said. There may only be 27 million golfers in the United States, but, he quipped, “Nobody buys a second home next to Giants Stadium.”

Bosworth rushed into the office in Thursday’s snowstorm to deal with the Comcast-Time Warner situation. He resisted the urge to call Jennifer Chun, the Time Warner Cable program acquisition chief, figuring she’d be plenty busy; they’re meeting next week anyway.

The merger announcement would seem to be more bad than good for Back9. But Bosworth sees an upside as regulators and critics eye the deal’s anticompetitive aspects.

Comcast “could be encouraged to carry alternatives to programming that they already own,” he said. “That’s a realistic scenario…And I think we could be one of the examples that they point to.”

Back9, meanwhile, remains in full compliance with the terms of its $5 million loan from the state Department of Economic and Community Development — and has raised six times that amount from private investors, 60 percent of them in Connecticut, Bosworth said.

That state assistance came under some criticism when Back9 posted a lewd video in late 2013. Show host Jennifer Bosworth, Bosworth’s wife and a former reporter at Fox CT, the Courant’s partner, did a spoof of a sex question-and-answer show, in which she offered raunchy answers, not repeatable on a family blog post, or a business blog post.

Jenn Bosworth Courtesy of Back9Network

Jenn Bosworth
Courtesy of Back9Network

James Bosworth called it a “skit that didn’t go right,” and said Back9 took it down quickly. “We apologized because we didn’t like it,” he said.

I can’t excuse it readily. As Eastwood said as “Dirty Harry” Callahan in Magnum Force, “A man’s gotta know his limitations.”  And so does a media outlet.

That segment was an extreme example of the wild, Hollywood style that Back9 is planting on the front yard of the buttoned-down Insurance City.  Bosworth is keenly aware of the cultural divide and insists his people work harder than anyone.

If they can deliver some zook to Hartford, great. The cable merger announcement comes at crucial time for the fledgling network and Back9′s optimistic company culture seems helpful. “I’m obviously very concerned,” Bosworth said, “But maybe it’s good for us.”

UConn Report: Wind Turbines Don’t Lower Home Prices In Mass.

by Categorized: Energy, Real Estate Date:

Most people would assume that houses in the shadow of a wind turbine might sell for less money than they would if the turbines were not there, especially if the turbines produce noise or so-called shadow flicker.

That’s what a couple of researchers, including one from UConn, figured they might find in a study of Massachusetts house sales near turbines.  But that’s not what they found, according to the report, released last week by the University of Connecticut and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

mass turbine study map

The study looked at 122,198 sales of single-family houses within five miles of a built or announced wind turbine, between 1998 and 2012. The authors, Carol Atkinson-Palombo, assistant professor of geography at UConn, and Ben Hoen, staff research associate at Lawrence, said their study was the first to look comprehensively at the effects on prices of urban and suburban homes near small-scale turbines.

Their conclusion:

The results of this study do not support the claim that wind turbines affect nearby home prices. Although the study found the effects from a variety of negative features (such as electricity transmission lines and major roads) and positive features (such as open space and beaches) generally accorded with previous studies, the study found no net effects due to the arrival of turbines in the sample’s communities. Weak evidence suggests that the announcement of the wind facilities had a modest adverse impact on home prices, but those effects were no longer apparent after turbine construction and eventual operation commenced.

Anyone who tries to apply that conclusion in, say, Colebrook, Connecticut, may find an argument. In that rural town, BNE Energy won approval for six turbines totaling 9.6 megawatts in 2011 but that and all other wind farm projects are on hold while state officials review the rules.

Critics will say that the effect on each house is unique, for example, at the historic bed and breakfast a few hundred yards from the proposed Colebrook site. That’s true. But meanwhile, Connecticut remains the only state in the region without a wind farm and three years later, it still has no rules in place. That’s not smart, legal or ethical.

 

 

 

New Haven Independent: J. Press Building To Go

by Categorized: Commerce, Economic Development, Real Estate, Retail Date:

New Haven isn’t quite as bad off as Hartford when it comes to its history of tearing down historic buildings, especially the ones that are not landmarks, but rather contributors to the street life of the city.

The New Haven Independent reports that the J. Press building on York Street will be demolished because it’s structurally unsound.  The upscale clothing store will rebuild on the site — and another little piece of urban color will vanish.

 

The Hartford Welcomes Junior Achievement To Asylum Hill In Historic Style

by Categorized: Education, Financial Services, Real Estate Date:

A grand, wood-paneled space in a 1925 building in Asylum Hill that once served as the main hall of a bank is coming back to life in a new financial role, this time to draw youths into the world of money and business.

The two-story room dominates the historic building at 70 Farmington Ave. in Hartford, which has long been owned by The Hartford. Now the insurance company has renovated it for Junior Achievement, which recently moved from cramped quarters on Main Street.

Click here for a photo gallery showing the building

Lou Golden, president of Junior Achievement of Southwest New England, in an office overlooking the main room at the group's new digs.  John Woike/The Hartford Courant

Lou Golden, president of Junior Achievement of Southwest New England, in an office overlooking the main room at the group’s new digs.
John Woike/The Hartford Courant

The move gives Junior Achievement a 6,100-square-foot location not only for offices for its 13-person staff, but a central place in a neighborhood on the edge of downtown for programs that bring thousands of volunteers together with tens of thousands of students. These programs, such as start-up enterprises and financial literacy events, happen largely in schools and at agencies such as Boys and Girls Clubs.

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Bradley’s Old Terminal Has Date With Destiny

by Categorized: Real Estate, Transportation Date:

It was the heart of Bradley Field, later Bradley International Airport. It harbored the great American post-World War II transition to mass commercial flight, starting with a groundbreaking by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower 63 years ago.

Now Bradley’s Murphy Terminal has its date with destiny. It is set for demolition, starting next August — though there’s no contractor in place yet, said Kevin Dillon, executive director of the Connecticut Airport Authority.

Cost to build it between 1950 and 1952: $2 million.

Cost to tear it down, complete with hazardous waste removal: $2 million.

Courant file photo (1983)

Courant file photo (1983)

 

Long before the tan, brick edifice closed in 2010 as the oldest active terminal of any major U.S. airport, it was the source of embarrassment for Connecticut, symbol of the aging infrastructure in a rich state with a long history.

“That’s why it is one of the most important projects for us,” Dillon said.  “Look at the deterioration of that building — that is the entry to Connecticut.”

Sturdy old Murphy Terminal remains in use today, believe it or not. It’s home to offices of the Transportation Security Administration and the state police — both of which are now being moved, Dillon said.  The building, dubbed Terminal B after the airport’s ’80s expansion, was named for Francis S. Murphy, publisher of the Hartford Times newspaper and head of the old Connecticut Aeronautics Commission.

THREE REASONS TO TEAR IT DOWN

1. End the embarrassment of having millions of visitors see a crumbling relic on their way into the state.

2. Clear the way for expansion and modernization. “The demolition in and of itself gives us the ability to realign the roadway system and pave the way at some point for a new terminal to be built there,” Dillon said.  Long before a new terminal rises, the current plans call for a consolidated rental car center where the short-term parking lot is now located in front of the terminal — perhaps by 2016.

3. Open or relocate a time capsule which, Dillon said, is supposedly next to the cornerstone. “We will certainly be very careful as we uncover that,” he said.

THREE REASONS TO RECONSIDER, AND SAVE THE TERMINAL

1. We could use it as a movie studio, with its ’50s-era control tower backdrop and plenty of paved, back-lot area for chase scenes.

2. It’s perfect for a higher-profile location of the New England Air Museum, now located around the back side of the runways.

3. We’ve torn down so much historic architecture in the past, maybe we’ll someday yearn to have Murphy back. Not likely, but possible.

C.M. Smith Brokerage Moving From Glastonbury To Hartford

by Categorized: Health Care, Insurance, Real Estate Date:

After 40 years of growth in Glastonbury, insurance broker and services firm C.M. Smith Agency Inc. is moving to downtown Hartford later this month as it looks to retain and attract more top talent in the Obamacare era.

The agency, which includes a separately owned consulting business for retirement plans, brings a total of 40 employees to 100 Pearl St. from its current digs at Salmon Brook, off Hebron Avenue.  With a lease for 8,300 square feet, the deal isn’t huge by commercial real estate standards but it’s significant because of why it’s happening and what it says about the health benefits industry.

John F. O'Connell Jr., left, and Bret Maffett of C.M. Smith Agency.  Handout photo

John F. O’Connell Jr., left, and Bret Maffett of C.M. Smith Agency.
Handout photo

“Being down where the action is will position us better,” said John F. O’Connell Jr., president of C.M. Smith Agency.

It will matter, he said, not only for its proximity to health insurers and other big companies, but for its location in the region.  The firm largely advises midsize and big companies on health insurance, often setting up self-insured plans for its clients — complete with actuarial work.

“Our business model is evolving very rapidly and in a positive way,” O’Connell said, adding that the Hartford location “will allow us to continue to draw really super highly skilled folks.”

O’Connell became a partner in the firm 18 years ago, when it was run by Charles H. Smith when the agency was more local, with eight employees. Now, O’Connell said, with a larger and more specialized staff that includes a former Aetna chief medical officer, people come from all over.

“It would be really tough for me to draw a skilled person from Granby to come all the way to Glastonbury,” he said.

For O’Connell and Bret Maffett, owner of the retirement plans side of the business, the cost per square foot in the lease, brokered by CB Richard Ellis, was about the same as in Glastonbury when the cost of parking and higher taxes is included.  That’s an indication that building owners in downtown Hartford are offering aggressive incentives.

Health care reform has been good for the Smith agency, O’Connell said, because client companies, especially those transitioning to self-insured health plans, need significant expertise. There will be a shakeout of brokerages, he and others say, and he expects a “handsomely increased” staff size over the next five years, though he wouldn’t give a forecast.

An acquisition, which would be the firm’s first, is not out of the question, but O’Connell said Smith will remain a boutique firm in the industry, and there’s a limit to a higher profile it expects to see in its new location.”You’re never going to see a C.M. Smith billboard,” he said.

Separately, the U.S. actuarial practice of  Oliver Wyman has opened an office at 20 Church St. in downtown Hartford, where its three sister firms under the March & McLennan Cos. — Marsh, Guy Carpenter and Mercer — already have offices.

The Oliver Wyman office for now has only its manager, Guillaume Briere-Giroux, who moved from Towers Watson’s risk consulting practice in Simsbury, but Briere-Giroux said he’s hiring staff as the office ramps up to consult with life and annuity companies. He declined to say how many people he expects to hire, adding that the company’s office space in the Stilts Building is flexible.

 

Connecticut’s Tally From Huge Mortgage Bank Settlement: $448 Million For 6,260 Homeowners

by Categorized: Banking, Housing, Real Estate, Wall Street Date:

A preliminary tally is in for Connecticut’s take in the $25 billion foreclosure settlement with the nation’s five largest mortgage loan servicers: $448 million in loan restructuring for 6,260 borrowers, Attorney General George Jepsen said Thursday.

That’s an average of $71,618 that the homeowners won’t have to pay those banks, and they saw their mortgage interest rates fall by an average of 2 1/4 percentage points. On top of it, the state received $27 million for foreclosure prevention programs and 5,000 Connecticut residents who had already lost their homes to foreclosure received $7 million.

The February, 2012 settlement with Bank of America, Citigroup, Ally Financial, J.P. Morgan Chase Bank and Wells Fargo followed an investigation into abusive practices.

“The settlement has been a tremendous success in Connecticut, helping many distressed borrowers to keep their homes,” Jepsen said in a written statement.

“It was the goal we envisioned during long months of negotiations,” said Jepsen, who helped in the talks between the lenders, the federal government and 49 states.

Loan modifications and workouts continue but appear to be winding down as the banks reach their settlement targets. Nationally, nearly 644,000 borrowers have received $51 billion in mortgage relief, with an average benefit of $79,742.