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Hartford’s Constitution Plaza Falls Into Foreclosure

By Kenneth R. Gosselin

July 31, 2012

The largest chunk of Constitution Plaza — owned by GE Capital and Richard Cohen — has fallen into foreclosure, after an agreement to refinance a $60 million mortgage couldn’t be reached, according to court documents.

The mortgage, taken out in 2006, came due on Jan. 1 but was extended to June 1 while the owners and the lender, Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. tried to work out refinancing terms. Commercial real estate mortgages typically must be paid in full when they reach maturity or be refinanced.

The mortgage covers the majority of the plaza but doesn’t include the former Broadcast House property, former Travelers education center or the hotel, which have separate ownership.

“The partners have been in discussion for several months to refinance but they have not been able to agree on terms,” Richard Weinstein, of Weinstein & Wisser in West Hartford, who represents GE Capital and Cohen, told me today. “We are guardedly optimistic that the business people will come to an agreement.”

Office owners still are having a tough time reaching refinancing terms in a still soft leasing market, as employers remain tentative about hiring.

But Weinstein noted today that Constitution Plaza is far from a troubled property, following extensive renovations and leasing to several marquee tenants. Most recently, Back9Network, the Hartford-based golf-lifestyle network, confirmed plans to expand to 10 Constitution Plaza and invest nearly $7 million in broadcast studios.

MetLife did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment today.

In March, GE Capital and Cohen put their share of Constitution Plaza up for sale without an asking price. Last week, in an interview, Cohen said it was GE’s decision to put the property on the market, not his. GE has the larger ownership stake.

Read more about the property going on the market here.

GE and Cohen’s Capital Properties purchased the buildings on Constitution Plaza in 1999 and have spent tens of millions on renovations. Capital Properties invested $10 million to become co-owner and took on the role of day-to-day management and oversaw redevelopment efforts.

Their properties include One and 100 Constitution Plaza — the two, high-rise towers — plus 10, 250, 260, 270, 280, 290 and 292. Together, they encompass 660,000 square feet of office and retail space on nearly seven acres, plus a 1,743-space parking garage.

The two office towers have a total of 504,000 square feet of office space and together, have an 82-percent occupancy. That’s considered quite healthy in a city where the overall downtown office vacancy rate has been at or near 30 percent in the past two years.

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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