Some Details Remain Before Residential, Retail Plan Ready
September 27, 2006
By JEFFREY B. COHEN, Courant Staff Writer
The state has closed a $5.5 million funding gap, but several details remain before it can sign a deal with a developer who wants to bring residents and retail to downtown Hartford's Front Street, the state said Tuesday.
"We're getting to the point where the [funding] gap is not the issue anymore," said Michael Cicchetti, a spokesman for the Capital City Economic Development Authority. "It's safe to say that it's not a question of a lack of funding, it's a question of how it's structured."
Front Street is the roughly 6-acre retail, residential and entertainment district planned for Adriaen's Landing. A key goal of the project is to link the Connecticut Convention Center with the rest of downtown.
The state's Office of Policy and Management and the development authority have been negotiating with Greenwich developer Bradley Nitkin since April 2005 in an effort to cut a deal for the still undeveloped acreage. Even though a deadline for a deal - underscored in a stern letter by Gov. M. Jodi Rell - passed earlier this month, negotiations have continued.
In February of this year, the authority signed an agreement with Nitkin that allowed for a phased development of the project. As part of that deal, the state pledged $33 million - $5.5 million of which was a loan.
The next step after that was for Nitkin to make arrangements with Hartford for tax breaks and funding.
But the city didn't like the scope of Nitkin's original proposal - 60 residential units and 43,000 square feet of retail - and told him that if he wanted all of the money he was asking for, he'd have to do the whole project. The original scope was 200 residential units and 100,000 square feet of retail.
Last month, in response to Nitkin's comeback offer for 115 units and 60,000 square feet of retail, the city committed $4.2 million in grants and loans and a tax-fixing agreement that could be worth several million dollars. The city has since upped its offer twice - offering a total of $7 million in grants and loans, as well as a sweetened tax-fixing agreement , officials said.
But the project still needs money, officials have said.
As a result, the state has agreed to convert its $5.5 million loan into a grant, Cicchetti said.
"We're looking at a different structure now that would not entail a forgivable loan anymore," he said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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