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Hollander Foundation Donates Capitol Center Office Building For Apartments

Kenneth Gosselin

May 18, 2011

The Capitol Center office building near Bushnell Park in downtown Hartford vacant for more than a decade could be converted into 40, mixed-income apartments, now that the six-story building has been donated to the same non-profit redeveloping the Swift factory in the city's North End.

Northeast Neighborhood Partners Inc. is now drawing up plans for the building on the corner of Asylum and High streets that are expected to include commercial space on street-level. Construction on the apartments, a mix of one- and two-bedroom units, isn't expected to be well underway for at least two years.

"We are excited to have the chance to add more mixed-income housing to downtown," Rosanne Haggerty, the organization's founder, said Tuesday.

The building was donated late last month by the foundation of Milton B. Hollander and his late wife Betty Ruth. The Hollanders had previously donated the neighboring building at 410 Asylum St. to Common Ground, a New York-based non-profit also founded by Haggerty.

The building at 410 Asylum, now known as The Hollander, also was redeveloped for mixed-income tenants. Opened in 2009, it is now fully occupied and viewed as a success for the city and the non-profit agency.

It is not yet clear how much the redevelopment of 370 Asylum will cost. The Hollander rehab cost $22 million, but Capitol Center is in far better shape and is newer, built in 1982.

While the Hollander family had discussed the possibility of donating the building to Northeast Neighborhood Partners last year, the donation did not come together until now. The non-profit had reconnnected with the family after the death of Betty Ruth Hollander in April, but it was a bit of a surprise at how quickly the donation came through this spring, mostly because Northeast Neighborhood Partners was focused on the Swift project, Haggerty said.

The Hollander Foundation could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.

The donation of the 75,000-square-foot building is the latest chapter in a long-running story involving the Hollanders and the two neighboring properties on Asylum Street.

In the mid-1990s, the Hollanders bought 370 Asylum St. for $2.8 million, according to sales records, and subsequently decided it didn't have enough parking. They purchased the 1920's vintage 410 Asylum in 1997 with the intent of demolishing it for a parking lot prompting an outcry from preservationists.

In 2003, the Hollanders were persuaded that donating 410 Asylum St. was a better option than demolition, since that building was considered historically valuable, if not a landmark.

The newer building had been the offices of various law firms and the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, but became vacant after CBIA left for Metro Center One.

Commercial real estate brokers said the building does have underground parking and access to surface lots but it has not been aggressively marketed in recent years. In the most recent economic downturn, the office vacancy rate in downtown Hartford soared, making leasing much more difficult.

While Northeast Neighborhood Partners is developing plans for Capitol Center, Haggerty said the organization will seek short-term office clients for the space, prior to renovations.

Architectural experts have praised the design of the building. Even though it is contemporary, Capitol Center fits in well with the older structures surrounding it, and its red brick pays homage to a construction material often used in the Hartford in the 19th century. Distinctive features include three-story oriels from the third to fifth floors in a uniform repetition.

Capitol Center was valued as high as $14 million when developer Richard Gordon sold it in 1988 to a limited partnership that included the principals of the long-defunct Colonial Realty Co. The sale came at the height of the over-heated commercial real estate market in the 1980s, whose collapse later helped plunge New England into a deep recession. Colonial Realty itself suffered a spectacular demise in 1990.

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.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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