By LAURA SCHREIER, Hartford Business Journal Staff Writer
January 14, 2008
Hartford craves young blood. City officials speechify on the need to attract prosperous, trendy young professionals, and developers expound on the need for them. The MetroHartford Alliance even established an organization that essentially tries to convince them that Hartford is the place to be.
So why, with all the pleading, aren’t more young professionals living here?
Clearly, it’s the high apartment rents, says Ruth Schaefer of the Schaefer-Belmont Group. She and other real estate professionals, including prominent developer Martin J. Kenny, say current rates are miles beyond what most 20-somethings can afford.
“Some of them are higher than a mortgage in West Hartford,” Schaefer said. “It’s ridiculous.”
The past several years have seen the opening of eye-catching luxury condos downtown, with flashy amenities and rents to match: 55 on the Park costs, at minimum, $1,025 for a one-bedroom, as much as $1,795 for a two-bedroom. Trumbull on the Park ranges from $900 to $3,400, and Hartford 21, charges from $1,405 up to $3,175.
Within these plush digs, some owners have noticed that it’s the cheapest units that invariably go fast and pile up a long waiting list.
One of those owners is Kenny. His experience with Trumbull on the Park and the kind of residents he sees led him to conclude that there’s an unmet demand for more affordable housing downtown for the 23-to-33-year-old age group.
“The younger people, they get it — they love the idea of living downtown, but they haven’t been able to afford it,” he said in a November interview.
Kenny emphasized this to the Hartford Redevelopment Agency in his proposal for 95-101 Pearl Street that month. He wanted to convert the vacant downtown building into studios and one-bedroom apartments with most rents below $1,000.
His idea was passed over in favor of a proposal from Westside Property Management, which was planning to build housing but didn’t specify how much those rates would be.
Not that luxury apartments sit empty. On the contrary, the apartments at the Lofts at 21 Temple St., also known as the Sage-Allen building, are almost all taken. And Hartford 21 stands at 62 percent occupancy, a number that satisfies owners at the Northland Investment Corp., who project between a 90 and 95 percent occupancy by September.