The developer of Hartford’s Front Street entertainment district has made a call to the bullpen, swapping out the brokerage firm tasked with filling the vacant property, which finished construction less than a year ago.
Massachusetts-based Eagle Rock Retail, a year-and-a-half- old firm that is a relative newcomer to Connecticut, has taken over as the exclusive broker of the property developed by HB Nitkin Group.
The six-person firm, which concentrates on shopping center leasing and development services to landlords throughout New England, was also recently tapped to take on the retail brokerage services of Blue Back Square in West Hartford.
Daniel Dori, Eagle Rock’s president, said the firm opened a satellite West Hartford office last year after it took on the leasing responsibilities at Blue Black Square. He said the company is handling leasing for 24 projects across New England covering 2.5 million square feet, and specializes in entertainment and restaurant type developments.
“We think that the Front Street district lends itself toward entertainment and restaurant venues,” Dori said.
Eagle Rock replaces Colliers International as the lead broker on Front Street. FirstService Williams was the original leasing agent on the project, before it took on the name of its parent company, Colliers International last year.
Peter Christian, HB Nitkin’s director of development and acquisitions, did not return a call seeking comment on the change in brokers.
Eagle Rock’s task won’t be an easy one. The long-awaited Front Street project finished construction last summer, but still remains vacant.
The Capital City Economic Development Authority announced in November that Cinema Grill would be building Front Street’s first operation, a movie theater with a full-service dinner menu, but the deal fell through.
Now CCEDA and Nitkin are pinning their hopes on Spotlight Theatres, a Georgia-based operation that signed a lease a few months ago and is moving forward in the design process for construction of the movie theater.
Spotlight Theatres was formed in 2003 by Joseph Paletta, a veteran of the movie theater industry. Like Cinema Grill, the theater has a full-service restaurant option at its facilities.
Dori said they have not pinpointed an opening date for the theater at this time.
In terms of attracting other tenants to Front Street, Dori said “We are working with several groups in advanced stages of negotiation, but we can’t make a public announcement until leases are signed.”
“My goal is to get it 100 percent rented by the end of the year,” he added.
The developers of Front Street have said the project has garnered a lot of interest from restaurants and other entertainment venues, but that they need to have an anchor tenant in place before anyone is willing to sign a lease.
Front Street is the final phase of Adriaen’s Landing, the state and privately-funded residential, retail and commercial development intended to attract activity to downtown Hartford.
The plan includes the existing Connecticut Convention Center, Connecticut Science Center and the 409-room Marriott Hartford Hotel.
Eagle Rock Retail is a newcomer to Connecticut. The Waltham, Mass.-based firm formed in 2010, and got its start in Connecticut leasing with the North Town Shopping Center in Stratford.
Dori, who said he has more than 12 years of experience in commercial shopping center leasing, is a Connecticut native who previously worked at several Massachusetts and New York real estate firms including Vornado Realty Trust and National Realty & Development Corp.
He said he decided to leave his previous job at Massachusetts-based W/S Development, LLC, to start his new firm. Sara Taylor, who is Eagle Rock’s vice president of leasing, also joined Dori from W/S Development.
“We decided it was the right time to get into the real estate business on our own,” Dori said.
In terms of growth opportunities, Dori said he sees Connecticut as an attractive market. The company caters to the third-party leasing needs of shopping centers in New England with a strong emphasis on recruiting restaurant and entertainment tenants.
It was that background that attracted Dori to Front Street, he said.
Eagle Rock Retail was tapped last fall by Ronus Properties to take over the retail leasing of West Hartford’s Blue Back Square.
Blue Back property manager Will Lorenz said they were introduced to Eagle Rock by local broker and developer Lee Pollock, who is also involved with the property. Blue Back decided to cut ties with its original retail broker Samuels & Associates, after the Boston-based firm had gone through some turnover. He said Blue Back also was looking for some fresh faces.
Lorenz said he is preparing to name three new tenants at Blue Back Square and hopes to have a total of five new tenants by the end of the year.
“We were sold on Eagle Rock because their portfolio has a similar tenant mix that we are looking for,” Lorenz said.