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Developer Favors Condos

Nyberg Changes Plans For American Airlines Building To Housing

December 17, 2005
By JEFFREY B. COHEN, Courant Staff Writer

Developer David Nyberg, owner of the old American Airlines building on Main Street, is changing his plan for the building: What was once going to be office and retail space could soon become condominiums.

"They've been suggesting ... that it might be a good condo project, and we have said, `Yes, we think so; we'd like to see that happen,'" said John F. Palmieri, director of the city's development services department. "He thinks it [works] out for him, and he knows better than we do."

Nyberg, who bought the building in June 2004 from the city's redevelopment agency for $1.4 million, would not comment. He has yet to submit "change of use" plans to the city, officially asking it to allow him to turn the building into condos, but officials say they expect them to be submitted soon.

Close to 1,000 housing units are either planned, under construction or already open downtown - a wave of development spurred in part by the state's investment in the downtown Adriaen's Landing project, and by speculation that suburban empty nesters and urban young professionals are going to find the city housing market attractive.

Nyberg is also the developer of the 50 condominiums at 266 Pearl St. called The Metropolitan. Those condos have yet to start closing, but, earlier this year, they were boasting sales prices previously unheard of in the downtown market - such as $253,000 for a 670-square-foot condo and $407,000 for a 1,236-square-foot penthouse, and that's before parking and condo fees.

According to city records, the American Airlines building at 915 Main St. has roughly 160,000 square feet, with close to 140,000 square feet available for condos. Nyberg has not submitted specifics on the size or number of prospective Main Street units.

By way of comparison, however, Nyberg's Metropolitan has 50 condominiums in roughly 45,000 square feet, less than a third the size of the American Airlines building.

Just how much housing is enough housing is a matter of debate. Some skeptics argue that, eventually, the downtown supply of housing will outpace the demand. Hartford is a city with a population decline in a slow-growing region where the trend is to flee the urban environment, not flock to it, they say.

But Palmieri, who admits he's a booster, says that the downtown market is nowhere near over-saturated. "I think the market could accommodate a few thousand more housing units, maybe all condos," he said. "We're central city, we're a corporate center, we're the capital, and people want to be here. So let's build."

"I think we could have downtown with 10,000 people in 4,000 or 5,000 units," he said.

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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