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New Apartment Plan For Hartford’s Constitution Plaza Joins Growing List in City

By Kenneth R. Gosselin

April 12, 2012

Plans for housing in downtown Hartford are starting to proliferate, with hundreds of new apartments envisioned for the central business district in the next three to five years.

Builder Abul Islam knows the market couldn’t absorb a flood of units all at once, but he does believe there will be consistent and growing demand for apartments.

Islam is abandoning his plans for a 12-story, $40 million office tower on the site of the old Broadcast House on Constitution Plaza and instead hopes to build an apartment building there with between 120 and 192 units, mostly studios and one-bedrooms.

“There’s a lot more support for residential units now than there is for commercial units now,” Islam told me.

When Islam announced his plans for the AI Technology Center office tower in late 2008, downtown office vacancies were above 20 percent and now stand at more than 30 percent. An office market is considered robust if the vacancy rate is in the low teens. When the rate falls below 10 percent, a market is considered ripe for new construction.

The plan joins others downtown, including the conversion of the old hotel on Constitution Plaza and the former Bank of America tower. My colleague Jenna Carlesso reports that the city’s planning and zoning commission approved the plans for the BofA tower, at 777 Main St. this week.

Read more about the approval here.

Islam told me his plans, which are still in the early stages, include little office space, no more than 20 percent of the building. His firm, AI Engineers, Inc., now based in Middletown, would likely be the sole commercial tenant.

The $45-$50 million development could rise as high as 14 stories and would likely be L-shaped at the corner of State Street and Columbus Boulevard.

Islam said he is not unveiling any renderings or designs until he lines up financing. When Islam proposed his office building, he had a splashy announcement but then found signing tenants and securing financing difficult.

Still, Islam told me he hopes to break ground this year and is in active discussions with potential partners and investors.

Financing will rest heavily on state funding from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s initiative to promote housing for low- and moderate-income households throughout Connecticut. The program is expected to provide $500 million over the next decade.

Islam has already sunk $2 million of his own funds into the project, buying the old Broadcast House. He demolished it in 2009 and since then, it has been a fenced-off, empty lot.

“I don’t want to have a hole in the ground with a fence,” Islam said. “I’m fully interested in building something that will benefit the city of Hartford. I don’t want to sit on this hole or make it into parking.”

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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