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City Wants To Demolish Decayed Building, Site Planned For Redevelopment

By KENNETH R. GOSSELIN

July 21, 2009

HARTFORD - The crumbling H.B. Davis Building on Main Street screams "decay" to tens of thousands of motorists daily as they head west on I-84 through the city's gateway.The building's days are numbered finally city officials said.

The city is moving to purchase the five-story structure at 1161 Main St., a parcel declared part of a redevelopment area earlier this year. The designation allows the city to acquire properties and sell them to developers.

If talks go smoothly, the structure, known widely as the "Butt Ugly Building," could be purchased by the end of the year and demolished soon after.

If negotiations reach an impasse, the city would take the property by eminent domain, a process that would take much longer. Either way, officials said, the 1920s, yellow-brick building is coming down.

"It's been a symbol and not necessarily a good one," said David Panagore, the city's development director.

City officials have long been concerned about the image of abandoned buildings at key entrances to the city. Besides H.B. Davis, redevelopment areas are focusing on the long-vacant Capitol West building and Clarion Hotel.

While not in danger of collapse, H.B. Davis has been cordoned off by fencing and scaffolding because bricks have been falling off the building.

The property owner, Robert Danial, has been trying to sell the building for years. In 2007, a plan to raze the building and build condominiums on the site and an adjacent city-owned parking lot collapsed.

Danial has been seeking $1.1 million for the property, according to city officials. Danial declined comment Monday.

Mark K. McGovern, the city's director of economic development, said the city is now seeking an appraisal for the property. Three years ago, one estimate pegged the cost of buying and demolishing the building at $1.2 million.

Once the building is razed, the redevelopment plan calls for using the property, along with others in the immediate area some owned by the city, some still to be acquired for a unified development that combines residential, retail and commercial space.

The area is tricky to redevelop because it was separated from the central business district when I-84 was built in the 1960s and adjoining buildings were demolished.

McGovern said the city is envisioning the site as a bridge between downtown and the gateway to the North End, rather than simply an extension of downtown.

Developers would be chosen by competitive bidding, but how soon the vision might emerge would depend on the pace of economic development and lenders' easing restrictions on credit.

Similar developments have moved slowly in Hartford. After years of delays and downsizings, Front Street, for example, is now going forward with only retail, with plans for apartments shelved until the market improves.

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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