October 14, 2005
By STEPHANIE REITZ, Courant Staff Writer
The challenge of creating an attractive gateway to Hartford's Hispanic
commercial center was awarded Thursday to a partnership of local
merchants and a seasoned downtown developer.
The Hartford Redevelopment Agency selected Plaza Mayor LLC, consisting of
developer Theodore M. Amenta and a coalition of Hispanic business owners,
as the tentative developer to revive the barren city-owned property at Park
and Main streets.
Their proposal, which redevelopment officials praised as bold and ambitious,
envisions a $64 million complex with two towers of roughly 20 stories each,
a 40,000-square-foot public plaza, parking, a banquet hall, a boutique
hotel and a chapel.
They say the plan could result in 40 to 80 new residential units, which
would sell for about $380,000 to $400,000 each.
City officials estimate the project could generate about $958,000 in new
taxes each year. Plaza Mayor must now meet several conditions set by the
agency to secure the project.
The commissioners selected Plaza Mayor over a more modest proposal by Providian
Builders of Hartford for a $26 million, five-story, antique-looking complex
with apartments, retail and office space and parking.
Although they praised the Providian project for its offerings and the way
it would blend easily with the neighborhood's architectural character, redevelopment
officials said Thursday they had not received enough financial data to judge
whether Providian could deliver.
Those officials also preferred Plaza Mayor's more ambitious scope, although
they cautioned that Amenta and his partners would have to undertake "considerable
effort" to make its size and complexity fit with the rest of the neighborhood.
The Plaza Mayor proposal would use $24 million in private equity, plus more
than $17 million in government assistance and private borrowing.
Carlos M. Lopez, the group's managing member, who is owner of the Park Street
furniture store Luis of Hartford, cited the partners' local roots and emotional
commitment to the project among the reasons they want to redevelop the corner.
"We have all of our hearts in this project. It is not all about our
money," Lopez said. "The commitment is there, and not only financially."
About half the site at Park and Main - the land at the southwest corner
of the intersection - is in the South Green Historic District, and is on
the National Register of Historic Places.
For a decade, four buildings on the site had been targeted for demolition,
which had been blocked by a court order obtained by the Connecticut Historical
Commission. The city was forced to demolish the buildings after a fire in
The Hartford Redevelopment Agency commissioners took their vote Thursday
night to select the tentative developer despite objections from several neighborhood
groups, whose leaders said they had not learned of the proposals early enough
to adequately inform local residents and gather feedback. The approval carried
by a vote of 5-0 with one abstention
"We want to make sure that whatever is built in the city of Hartford
lives, and continues to live and be used, and not become a glass mausoleum
like some of the projects in Hartford from the 1970s," said Bernadine
Silvers, president of the Coalition to Strengthen the Sheldon/Charter Oak
Their request for a delay in the decision was rejected.
However, John F. Palmieri, the redevelopment agency's executive director,
said that under terms of being selected as the tentative developer, Plaza
Mayor is required to meet with those local groups for their feedback over
the next 120 days.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at