May 26, 2007
By JEFFREY B. COHEN, Courant Staff Writer
Apartment construction inside the South Armory of the Colt Gateway project has all but stopped as the project developer waits for funding that is expected by June.
"This isn't unique to our project," Colt official Rebekah MacFarlane said Thursday. "The bottom line is, we have the money to complete the project. [The problem] is the timing."
Although some minor work is continuing, only about a dozen of the contractor's approximately 80 workers are involved, she said.
"They've said they'll come in full force when the money comes," MacFarlane said.
The Colt Gateway project is a $120 million plan to turn the old gun factory with its blue onion dome, just west of I-91, into apartments and commercial space. Of that, about $65 million comes from construction loans, $35 million comes from tax credits and grants, and $20 million comes from private equity, MacFarlane said.
The city is working with Colt to issue about $8 million in bonds for the project, of which $6 million to $7 million would go to the project itself.
But Colt officials have yet to file the final paperwork with the city that would begin that process in earnest. City officials said they had expected that to happen in March.
"I'm confident the project is moving forward," said John Palmieri, the city's director of development services. "It's just taken a little while longer than it should have."
MacFarlane says the final paperwork should be filed in June. Meanwhile, Colt is seeking bridge funding that will allow it to begin work again in June should the city money not materialize.
The South Armory has four floors for apartments and two for commercial space.
The top floor has 28 units, with 22 leased and three used by the developer as a leasing office, fitness room, and model unit. The fifth floor has 33 units, seven of which are leased. The apartments on the third and fourth floors are not complete.
Apartments at the Colt range from 750 to 2,000 square feet and rent from about $900 to $2,700 a month.
The two commercial floors have also been the cause of some dispute.
MacFarlane says her company is in negotiations with the state to move an office of the Department of Children and Families to the Colt. That office is currently in the city's Parkville neighborhood, and the building's owner, Schaefer Belmont Group LLC, is not pleased that it may be losing a tenant.
Neither is Mayor Eddie A. Perez.
"It doesn't make sense to just move tenants around the city of Hartford for the state," said Matt Hennessy, Perez's chief of staff. Perez has reached out to state officials deciding the matter, he said.
"The state can play a better role by supporting all of our neighborhoods with their leases," Hennessy said. "The robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul approach doesn't help the city as a whole."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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