By LAURA SCHREIER, Hartford Business Journal Staff Writer
December 24, 2007
AT&T has confirmed that it is close to finalizing a deal that would finally sell off a prime downtown parking lot in Hartford. The telecommunications giant has confirmed that it has identified a high bidder for the property, marking the first sign of progress in the sale of the long-idle and much-contested piece of land. However, it declined to identify the high bidder.
Sources knowledgeable about the transaction indicate that Northland Investment Corp. is expected to purchase the property, which is located across the street from another prime piece of property — the former YMCA bulding located on Jewel Street that overlooks Bushnell Park — that Northland acquired in 2005. Northland, the developer of Hartford 21, plans to demolish the former YMCA property and replace it with a high-rise, mixed-use development.
The underused parking lot, located between Ann Street and Bushnell Park, is considered by city parking officials and local developers to be ideally situated for use as a parking facility, also considered necessary to alleviate the parking crunch downtown.
However, because of difficulties in purchase agreements, potential sales have stalled and the lot has remained unsold since it was put on the market in March.
Adam Cormier, an AT&T spokesman, confirmed that the company has selected a high bidder and is working to finalize terms of the deal, but he declined to reveal the identity of the high bidder.
Chuck Coursey, spokesman for Northland, neither confirmed nor denied that the major Hartford developer was working with AT&T to buy the lot.
Despite its unbeatable location, the lot has had some significant hurdles to overcome. The City of Hartford initially registered as a bidder, but had decided to pass on the lot, mostly because of AT&T’s requirements for the sale.
The company had put forward certain prerequisites, including an agreement that the buyer provide 80 free parking spaces and as many as 120 more discounted spaces for occupants of the AT&T building at 111 Trumbull St.
Those costly requirements, plus the already-spiking costs of construction made the deal a losing proposition as far as the city was concerned, said James Kopencey, executive director of the Hartford Parking Authority. No development scenario, from multi-story parking garage to simple surface lot, would have put the city in the black financially.
The property has long been eyed by developers and other property owners, with the competition heating up during the past year. The management of CityPlace I had long expressed a desire to acquire the parcel as a strategy to retain MetLife as a tenant. However, it failed to acquire the lot or retain MetLife, which is moving to the Cigna campus in Bloomfield.
More recently, CityPlace I had bid on the lot, putting up more than $3 million, Kopencey said. The lot is located a short distance across the street from CityPlace. With 2008 bringing expiration dates on a number of CityPlace’s leases, the announcement of additional parking nearby would be an extra incentive for current tenants to stay and others to move in.