Hartford tower floors will lay vacant without help
April 24, 2006
By MATTHEW L. BROWN, Hartford Business Journal Writer
Just three weeks after paying nearly $13 million for Hartford’s 777 Main St. office tower, developer Michael Grunberg now says he needs state and local help to fund a $10 million parking garage expansion — or else.
Grunberg, who also owns the 280 Trumbull Street office building, complained at a Real Estate Finance Association meeting at the Hilton Hartford last week that the lack of adequate parking downtown is threatening to stifle the city’s economic comeback.
That comment came as the principal of New York City-based Grunberg Realty was approaching the Capital City Economic Development Authority (CCEDA) asking for a $3.8 million subsidy to build a 500-car garage and retail center adjacent to his Main Street property.
Grunberg said that, without the subsidy, he cannot economically build the garage, and that would result in “the continued stagnation of the building and area with a decreasing commercial base.”
The office tower currently serves as Connecticut headquarters for Bank of America, which leases 51 percent of the building. Other tenants lease another 8 percent, according to Grunberg’s announcement when he purchased the building at the end of March. He made no mention of the other tenants in his letter last week to the CCEDA.
The 26-story, 360,000 square-foot office tower includes a 200-car above-ground garage, but Bank of America controls 150 of those spaces.
“There are only 50 parking spaces available for use by other retail tenants, visitors and transient parkers,” Grunberg argued to CCEDA. “This leaves a major [Central Business District] building 48 percent vacant. The lack of available parking has a negative impact on our ability to fill the vacant portions...Without additional parking it will be impossible to attract new commercial tenants to the building.”
The developer said he is exploring the feasibility of converting the remaining commercial space in the building to residential condominiums. “In either case, there is insufficient parking for new tenants, visitors to the building and the immediate and existing population surrounding 777 Main,” he asserted.
In an interview, Grunberg said the state should be willing to provide “what they’ve picked up with other projects” downtown.
Grunberg asserts that his proposal will not only benefit his ability to lease the vacant portion of his office tower, but other area landlords and retailers as well.
“CCEDA claims they only have $3.8 million in their kitty for parking right now. Maybe, we can get some more,” Grunberg said.
The point, Grunberg said, is that more parking should be built “where it’s needed most.”
“I’m providing the land, and all the benefits to the surrounding area,” Grunberg said. He said the development could also include retail space. “It’s more of what Eddie [Perez, mayor of Hartford] wants. It’s more of what the state wants. I’m willing to contribute. I’ve already made an all-cash investment in the double-digit millions, and I’m willing to contribute more, but it all depends on what I’m going to get.”
Grunberg said he stands by the wisdom of his purchase, even if he can’t get the additional parking subsidy.
The expansion would be built, Grunberg said, beneath the existing garage behind the Bank of America building.
Grunberg said he hasn’t submitted plans for the garage with the city’s planning office. “Why go further than to see if I can get some money?” he asked. “I have not gone forward with any proposal to see if I can get any permits or anything.”
It also remains to be seen if either the bank or the state has any interest in the construction of a downtown parking facility. “They’re the ones who would make the investment,” Grunberg said.
Multiple calls to CCEDA seeking comment were not returned.