February 2, 2006
By JEFFREY B. COHEN, Courant Staff Writer
It has been known as other things -
the H.B. Davis building is perhaps its most recognizable name -
this tan, squat, falling-down, boarded-up Main Street blight with
signs that offer rentals and a reality that inspires regret.
But it has come to be known by Hartford
officials by its less-than-pretty moniker: The "Butt Ugly Building."
It's even been called that in official municipal documents.
If developer Joseph Citino of Providian
Builders has his way, though, the building at a corner of Main and
Trumbull streets could come down in four months and, within a year,
a new condominium project could be underway.
"It's a terrible eyesore,"
said John F. Palmieri, city development services director. "It's
just a negative influence and thousands of people who travel through
the city see it...It's not a positive symbol, and we need to do
something about it."
Kenneth R. Kahn, executive director
of the Greater Hartford Arts Council, said the building is as visible
as it is ugly.
"It's hard to imagine a worse
use for the property than the building that is there now,"
he said. "The demolition alone would be worthy of a major celebration.
A building, or something new and attractive there, would be something
to sing [Citino's] praises on high."
Citino stresses that the talk is preliminary,
although he said the building is "under contract."
His Plan A calls for the bare minimum
- six or seven stories with retail at the ground level and 70 units
ranging from 1,500 to 2,000 square feet above.
Plan B is more ambitious - 21 to 24
stories with more than 200 units.
In either case, Citino says, they will
be "ultra luxury," and, at least for now, he is saying
they will be built with private money. But if it works, Citino said,
the development just north of I-84 that is within eye-shot of the
Civic Center, the Hartford Hilton, and all of downtown Hartford's
major attractions, could be big.
"It's a piece of property that
needs to be developed, it's a catalyst for future projects to build
communities," he said. "Right now you've got downtown
Hartford as its own little island and it's not bridged into the
rest of the communities."
As for the building's less-than-flattering
nickname, Citino finds it appropriate.
"That's a fair description,"
he said. "When we're done with it, we'll definitely change
The building is owned by Edwards Development
LLC, a company headed by investor and property owner Robert Danial.
Danial also owns the Stilts Building, the Holiday Inn Express and
the Bond Hotel on Asylum Street, as well as some downtown apartment
Danial wound up owning the "Butt
Ugly Building" after acquiring its tax lien from the city.
When the estate that owned the property failed to pay its taxes,
Danial ended up with the deed.
"He hadn't intended to own the
building and develop the building, it was more of a financial investment,"
said Leslie Silverman, Danial's spokeswoman, adding that several
potential projects have fallen through over time.
"It's not like it's just been
sitting there - there's been different attempts to do things, but,
for various and sundry reasons, they wound up not coming to fruition."
"He's going to be very, very happy
to see a condominium development on the site," she said.
So is the city.
"It's good news that this property
is being taken on by somebody who is interested in making a real
investment in the city as opposed to holding it for a future payday,"
said Matt Hennessy, a spokesman for Mayor Eddie A. Perez.
The problem with a building like the
"Butt Ugly Building," Hennessy said, is that "people
wind up focusing on that building as opposed to [looking] at what
the development opportunities are in that entire two-block area."
City officials acknowledge they received
Citino's preliminary plans this week, but they've yet to give them
a comprehensive review.
"If I were to say what could work
there, I'd think that a mid-rise, maybe eight stories, would be
nice," Palmieri said. "But once you get really high, it's
much more expensive and you really need to do your market research.
And you need financing."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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