Robert A. MacFarlane, the developer in charge of renovating the historic Colt
complex in Hartford, says the project is in good shape despite the absence
of construction work on the site.
Pardon us for being nervous. This project is as important as
any major downtown improvements in its potential contribution
to the city's economic renaissance. Not only does it preserve
historic buildings, but it also grooms Coltsville as the ideal
location for a national park, now being studied by the National
So far, Mr. MacFarlane and his partners at Colt Gateway have
kept their word and exceeded their promises to treat the buildings
with respect for their history, bring jobs to the neighborhood
and clean up pollution on the site of the former gun factory.
Two commercial buildings have been renovated, rented and occupied
in record time. Plans are afoot for a third commercial operation
in the modern U-shaped building near the former factory.
A promised resumption of the next phase - renovation of the
south and east armories into retail, commercial and residential
space - was supposed to happen last fall. Subsequent delays were
attributed to the need for various federal, state and local approvals.
At year's end, the developer was expecting a $2 million grant
from the federal Economic Development Agency, and a mortgage
closing was said to be imminent.
Still, no hammers have been heard.
This week, Mr. MacFarlane acknowledged setbacks. He characterized
them as minor bumps. Among them was the news that the project
would not be getting the federal grant after all. Budget woes
in Washington were blamed. Meanwhile, the company has switched
mortgage holders from Citizens Bank to Wachovia. Again, a closing
is said to be imminent.
Mr. MacFarlane is hoping, in the absence of the federal grant,
that the state Department of Economic and Community Development
will agree to release the balance of a $4.5 million remediation
grant pledged long ago to the developer. In the absence of the
federal grant, this money would facilitate approval of the new
mortgage, he said.
Public officials, from the governor on down, should do all they
can to make this happen. The pollution has been cleaned up, but
the state has released just $1 million of the promised grant.
Its intention is to pay it in installments as Colt Gateway completes
each phase of the project. Although this strategy is understandable,
a chicken-and-egg standoff won't serve anyone's interest.
Mr. MacFarlane said loss of the federal grant is not a deal
breaker and that the project will resume by the end of the month.
We take him at his word.
Work is to begin first on the south armory, the wing known as
the Colt Building, which is partially occupied. In five months,
the focus will shift to the historic east armory, the building
under the blue onion dome.
That's the meat of the project from a preservation standpoint.
And stakeholders shouldn't underestimate the value of scaffolds
on the landmark, a visible sign of Hartford's progress to all
who pass through the city on I-91.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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