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Front Street Leasing Slow As Completion Date Nears

By Greg Bordonaro

May 17, 2010

Downtown Hartford’s long awaited Front Street District is nearing completion and its developers hope to see businesses up and running in the facility as early as late fall.

Peter Christian, an official with HB Nitkin Group, developer of the $30 million retail-only first phase, said construction on the two commercial buildings that anchor the site — across Columbus Boulevard and in the shadow of the Connecticut Convention Center — will be completed by mid-June.

He said two to three separate tenants are close to signing, but declined to disclose who they are. Leases could be finalized in the next month, and it would take tenants about three to six months to outfit their spaces, he said.

The two commercial buildings that make up Phase I of the Front Street District will hold 65,000 square feet of entrainment and restaurant venues, which could house between six and 12 tenants.

Christian said they are trying to attract businesses that serve various price points in order to appeal to the broadest possible audience.

He said he would like to see some family-oriented venues, along with upscale dining.

The developers are looking at local and regional restaurants, but they would also like a recognizable national brand that would be unique to Connecticut.

“We want Front Street to offer things that you can only get by coming to downtown Hartford,” Christian said.

Front Street is the final phase of Adriaen’s Landing, the state and

privately-funded residential, retail and commercial development intended to attract activity to downtown Hartford.

The plan includes the existing Connecticut Convention Center,

Connecticut Science Center and the 409-room Marriott Hartford Hotel.

In total, over $1 billion of public and private capital has been invested in new development projects including the Adriaen’s Landing master plan area, as well as over 1,000 new apartment units, new and renovated hotels and the new Capital Community College.

When completed, the Front Street District is expected to include 150,000 square feet of space that will be occupied by restaurant, entertainment and retail spaces. The first phase of construction scheduled to be completed in June will contain the 65,000 sq. ft. The original plan to have 115 units of housing above storefronts has been temporarily shelved.

Public money covers $20 million of the $30 million Phase 1 price tag.

Design concepts for Phase II, including residential and additional retail, are being weighed, Christian said.

He said they are exploring financing options including going through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. He said there is some state money left over for that second part of the project as well.

In terms of leasing for Phase I, Christian said it has been challenging.

“It’s been fairly slow, mostly due to the economy,” Christian said.

Regardless, Christian said he hopes Front Street will add to the revitalization of the city.

“I hope it’s just one more piece that will help to attract people to downtown on evenings and weekends, and provide more options to folks living in downtown Hartford,” he said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Business Journal. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Business Journal Archives at http://www.hartfordbusiness.com/archives.php.
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