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Front Street Project Will Go On Despite Developer Nitkin's Death

JEFFREY B. COHEN

April 01, 2009

Bradley Nitkin fought gastric cancer for almost three years, about as long as he was working on the downtown revitalization project called Front Street.

Now, Nitkin, 62, is gone. He died this weekend in New York, and his Greenwich funeral was Tuesday. But the still-nascent Front Street project will continue unaffected, his company and state officials say.

"There will be no impact to the project besides losing Brad's inspiration and vision for it," said Peter Christian, director of development at the HB Nitkin Group. "Brad's wish was that his company continues on after him, so it's structured in such a way that we're fully prepared to do that."

Front Street has long been the punching bag of downtown development, the hoped-for residential and retail project that despite the years of effort hasn't yet built the visible results that build credibility. Its vision was to bring residents and revelers to the blocks next to the Connecticut Convention Center. It has yet to do so.

That said, construction is underway. As the weather warms, bricks-and-mortar work is beginning. Concrete forms will be installed this week, and cement itself should be poured in less than two. Longer term, one of Front Street's two retail buildings under construction could be open by January, the other by next May.

"We at CCEDA have been told by the Nitkin Group that the Front Street project will go forth as planned," said William McCue, the chairman of the Capital City Economic Development Authority. "Brad built a very professional organization, and we are told by them that they will carry out Brad's plan of development."

Nitkin was the latest developer to take a stab at building in the vacant acres next to the Connecticut Convention Center.

Before Nitkin there was Richard Cohen, a developer who failed to do anything concrete after he signed a 2002 agreement with the state. Then came an agreement with Nitkin in 2006.

His original plans for the site called for using the entire swath of now-vacant land between Columbus Boulevard and Prospect Street. But that plan was downsized to two phases. For the first phase, the state and Nitkin agreed to develop roughly half of that site into 115 apartments and 65,000 square feet of retail.

Early last year, crunched by rising construction costs and a slumping economy, the state and Nitkin jettisoned the apartments and decided to move forward with retail alone.

Then, last November, construction for the $30 million project $20 million in public funds, $10 million in private began quietly. First came site work and the installation of utilities. Now come the foundations. Eventually, the hope goes, will come the retail leases, the retailers, the shoppers and the diners.

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