Development Team Seen As Best Choice For Landing Project
April 21, 2005
By JEFFREY B. COHEN And MIKE SWIFT, Courant Staff Writers
team that includes the renowned firm of Robert A.M. Stern Architects
and the owner of Glastonbury's Shops at Somerset Square has emerged
as the last developer standing in the effort to revive Front
Street, officials said Wednesday.
The working group of city and state officials in charge of Front
Street's future has said it wants to continue negotiating only
with a team led by The HB Nitkin Group of Greenwich and Realty
Resources of Rockport, Maine. The team also includes the landscape
designer who is working on the new convention center at Adriaen's
"At the end of the day, this is the group that has emerged
as the one we want to try to reach a development agreement with," said
Dean Pagani, spokesman for the Capital City Economic Development
Authority, adding that Nitkin has not been formally "selected" and
any agreement would be subject to state and city approval.
Bradley Nitkin, president of the Nitkin Group, said his company
is active in the state and sees opportunity at the retail and
residential heart of Adriaen's Landing.
"We're a very active owner in the Hartford market and we
really believe in Hartford," he said, stressing that his
company's statewide investments set it apart from others. "Because
I believe that positive things are taking place today in Hartford
and we want to be involved."
Nitkin's company has more than 200 retail tenants in the roughly
1 million square feet of retail space it owns in the state, Nitkin
said. And, in contrast to what several other developers had told
the working group, Nitkin said he thinks national retailers may
well find the spot attractive.
"We have spoken to national retailers who we have relationships
with, as well as to quality local retailers, and they are interested
in being part of this project," he said.
"He has provided a list of contacts he has with [regional
and national] retail establishments that are pretty impressive," said
Richard D. Gray, the governor's representative to the working
group and its head.
The road to this point has been a long one.
The state, through the development authority, is bringing roughly
$70 million to the table to help develop the roughly $150 million
Last August, the development authority dumped developer Richard
Cohen and Capital Properties from the project two years after
he had signed a contract with the state. Cohen had failed to
begin building at the site.
Then, following a failed attempt to find a new developer in
a jiffy last fall, the state began anew, seeking interested developers.
The development authority's working group began with a list
of roughly 40 names of developers to contact, Gray said. Some
responded and the group was decreased to 13. Next, six developers
were invited to submit more detailed, formal presentations to
the group. Of them, two did - Nitkin/Realty Resources and BOS
Group of Bethesda, Md.
Some of the other firms "dropped out of the process on
their own because they had other commitments elsewhere in the
country," Pagani said. "Some of them could not keep
to our timetable."
Realty Resources had previously
been partnered with CBL & Assoc.
of Waltham, Mass., but that company backed out of the project
and Nitkin, which owns Somerset Square, took its place.
When Nitkin came in, the company brought its whole team, Gray
said, including: Robert A.M. Stern Architects of New York, the
firm that bears the name of and is headed by the dean of the
Yale School of Architecture in New Haven; Economic Research Associates
of New York; and Edaw, a landscape developer and planner with
worldwide offices and local experience - the company worked on
the new convention center.
"We ended up, all of us, pretty much agreeing that the
Nitkin group was the firm to work with," said John Palmieri,
the city's director of development services.
The city has offered to negotiate potentially tens of millions
of dollars in tax abatements, in addition to $6 million in a
sort of federal low interest loan and $2 million in grant money,
"They made a very impressive presentation; it was very
complete and they had a very strong group with them," he
said. "They covered every base."
Nitkin's group also told officials that preliminary plans do
not call for additional state or city funding - something that
caused the relationship between the project and Cohen to fall
"We were not asked for any additional subsidy," Gray
Pagani said city officials, along with the development authority
and the state Office of Policy and Management, decided that the
Nitkin/Realty Resources group had the best chance to get the
project done based on the projects it has completed, the partnership's
enthusiasm for Hartford, and its willingness to accept the state's
schedule for the review process and to get the project completed.
Nitkin, which has bought and rehabbed a number of distressed
properties, has not completed the kind of project that Front
Street would entail - a highly complex, mixed-use retail and
residential complex on a dense urban site. But state officials
said they believe the partnership can get the project done.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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