February 10, 2006
By KENNETH R. GOSSELIN, Courant Staff Writer
A Manhattan real estate company that
describes itself as "very bullish" on Hartford has signed
a contract to buy the downtown Bank of America building after Northland
Investment Corp. ended its quest to purchase the 27-story tower.
Grunberg Realty confirmed Thursday
that it would purchase the building at 777 Main St. in a deal expected
to close in March. It would become the firm's second major purchase
in the heart of downtown Hartford, two years after it acquired a
28-story tower at 280 Trumbull St.
The deal is also the most recent example of private dollars coming
in behind the state-backed redevelopment of downtown Hartford.
The 360,000-square-foot Bank of America
building could continue to be used as office space, but could also
be used for apartments, condominiums or a combination of office
and residential use, said Michael Grunberg, a principal in the family-run
"I'm leaving all options open,"
Grunberg declined Thursday to reveal
the purchase price, but indicated that it was "substantially
more" than the $12 million that Northland offered.
Earlier this week, Northland, downtown
Hartford's largest landlord, dropped its lawsuit against the current
owners of the building, American Financial Realty Trust, and two
The suit had sought to force the sale
of the building to Northland.
Northland, based in Newton, Mass.,
had accused the owners of backing out of a deal outlined in mid-January
in a letter of intent to sell. American Financial Realty, based
in Jenkintown, Pa., terminated that agreement on Jan. 26, a decision
that prompted the lawsuit.
Neither Northland nor American Financial
Realty would discuss the circumstances - or any financial settlement
- surrounding the dropping of the lawsuit. But court documents show
that the action was taken "with prejudice," meaning Northland
cannot resurrect legal action in the matter.
"We are proud to be such an active
participant in Hartford's revitalization and will continue to pursue
new opportunities," said Chuck Coursey, a Northland spokesman
in Hartford. "Those opportunities won't include 777 Main St."
Anthony DeFazio, a spokesman for American
Financial Realty, said the firm "is pleased that a resolution
has been reached that is mutually beneficial to both parties."
American Financial Realty purchased
the tower in late 2004 as part of a $353 million portfolio of 248
properties owned nationwide by Bank of America.
City records show that 777 Main St.
was valued at $18.4 million in the transaction.
DeFazio said it is not unusual for
American Financial Realty to sell some properties acquired in large
Often, those properties are purchased
by individual investors who see potential in them, DeFazio said.
Last year, Grunberg, who lives in Greenwich,
was edged out by Northland in his bid to purchase Goodwin Square.
Northland agreed to pay $41 million for the property, which includes
the Goodwin Hotel.
Grunberg said Thursday that he has
had his eye on the Bank of America building since last year. It
was erected in 1967 as the headquarters of the old Hartford National
Bank and, Grunberg said, was intended to convey a sense of stability
to the bank's customers.
"They built it just as substantially
as they wanted the bank to appear to their customers," Grunberg
said. "The bones are there. It's a well-built building."
Grunberg said his first preference
would be to use the building for office space, but that he also
would consider residential.
He won't make any decisions, including
about possible renovations, until he meets with the tenants. He
said he will probably do that next week.
Corporate downsizings in the city and
their effect on the downtown office market continue to be a concern
because employment growth is needed to fill office space that is
But Grunberg said he remains enthusiastic
about Hartford's future, especially after the opening of the convention
center and progress on residential projects, such as the 36-story
apartment tower now under construction by Northland.
"I think Hartford is on its way
up," Grunberg said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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