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Hartford Office Supply Building Again Targeted For Apartment Conversion


May 28, 2013

A developer that plans to convert a downtown office building into apartments is looking at another similar project that could boost Hartford’s Frog Hollow neighborhood.

Dakota Partners, Inc. of Waltham, Mass. has an option to purchase the long-vacant, Hartford Office Supply Co. building at 390 Capitol Ave. — and could resurrect a failed 2008 plan to convert the building into about 115 apartments, city officials told me today.

The 150,000-square-foot building would be purchased out of a foreclosure for unpaid city taxes. The purchase price or the redevelopment price tag couldn’t be determined this afternoon. Dakota did not immediately return a telephone call and an email seeking comment.

Thomas E. Deller, the city’s chief development officer, said further city backing isn’t needed because approvals from 2008 are still in force. Financing would still need to be lined up, however, and the developers are seeking funding from the state Department of Economic and Community Development for the project, Deller said. If the purchase goes through, construction wouldn’t likely begin until next spring, he said.

Dakota also is seeking to convert the former office building at 179 Allyn St. near Union Station into 63 market-rate apartments. The $14.7 million project has been approved for $6.5 million in funding by the Capital Region Development Authority. The funding still needs the approval of the State Bond Commission.

In Frog Hollow, business owners and their customers have noticed lights turned on in various parts of the building for weeks. And more recently, they have spotted people coming and going at the building.

If the purchase is completed, the apartment conversion — including 10 percent affordable and the rest, market-rate units — could provide a sorely-needed boost for struggling restaurant and retail businesses in the area. Those businesses have felt the disruption of the construction of CTfastrak, the New Britain-to-Hartford busway.

“It would be a game changer for us,” said Virginia Iacobucci, owner of the La Paloma Sabanera Coffee House, across the street on Capitol Avenue. “We would have to consider expanding our hours and opening Sundays.”

The coffee house is now open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the week and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.

“It would put a whole new group of people in that area,” Deller told me.

Part of the building dates back to the late 1800s and was once occupied by the Pratt & Whitney Machine Tool Co. The company backed aircraft engine pioneer Frederick Rentschler in 1925 and encouraged Rentschler to use the Pratt name.

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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