For the first time in 16
years, a new skyscraper has begun to reshape downtown Hartford's
Now reaching nine stories above the corner of Trumbull and Asylum
streets, the steel framework of what will be New England's tallest
apartment tower is only one-quarter of its ultimate height.
The $161.6 million transformation of the old Hartford Civic Center
Mall into a 36-floor apartment tower, along with shops and restaurants
that will line Asylum and Trumbull streets, is about 40 percent complete,
with about $64 million spent. But the steel is expected to move rapidly
skyward over the summer, with the frame topping out in October.
If all goes according to plan, the first residents should be moving
into the "Hartford 21'' tower a little less than a year from now,
the developer, Northland Investment Corp., told the board of the
Capital City Economic Development Authority Friday. Construction
is due to be completed in July 2006.
"So far, so good. Everything has been going very smoothly with
respect to the tower,'' Peter Standish, a senior vice president with
Northland, told board members.
The last time a skyscraper was being built in the heart of downtown
-- the Goodwin building on Asylum Street -- a different George Bush
was in the White House and the Hartford Whalers were still playing
hockey on Trumbull Street. But the buildings that rose downtown in
the 1980s were office buildings. Now, with Hartford 21 and other
projects, the focus is on adding space for residents.
"We're going to have some residents downtown; it's going to be
a big change,'' said Miguel Matos, a member of the CCEDA board.
Ultimately, in addition to 262 apartments, Hartford 21 will include
53,000 square feet of street-level retail space on Trumbull and Asylum
streets and 93,000 square feet of office space. Standish said Northland
is in talks now with prospective office and retail tenants, but declined
to name any.
The focus of the Hartford 21 project, the second-largest project
after the Connecticut Convention Center in the billion-dollar-plus,
state-subsidized downtown investment program, is soon to move off
the street and into the air. In coming months, construction crews
will be completing sidewalks, landscaping and exterior work along
Trumbull and Asylum streets, meaning that people going to events
in the Civic Center coliseum will no longer have to walk through
a construction site to reach the main entrance to the arena.
Along Trumbull Street, workers have nearly completed the stainless
steel panels that have replaced the stolid concrete walls of the
old Civic Center Mall. Matos jokingly called it "tin-pan alley''
Friday, but Standish said Northland has received a good reaction
to the modern architectural style.
"We were looking to create something new and unique, and have it
be a real landmark,'' he said.
Standish said Northland is not hurrying to lease the retail space
because the mix of tenants will be critical to its success. The storefronts
on Asylum are intended to house smaller businesses serving the downtown
neighborhood, such as groceries, wine shops or other small "boutique''
retailers, he said. The stores on Trumbull, which has more street
traffic and larger sidewalks, would be larger retail tenants.
The Hartford 21 tower will be in a more traditional architectural
style than the metallic skin on Trumbull Street, emphasizing a glass
and pre-cast concrete facade. As the steel rises in coming months,
and as the building's yellow construction crane climbs in advance
of the framework, the project will become increasingly prominent,
particularly viewed from the west and north.
"We've put this location on the map,'' he said. "Whereas before
we were trying to sell a vision, that vision is here.''
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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