Any mothballed building hurts a street, but when it fills nearly a city block, it's a disaster. Hartford's Franklin Avenue is a historic commercial and residential street that's surely taken - and mostly weathered - its lumps. But even this vibrant strip buckles beneath the blocklong behemoth at the corner of Franklin and Shultas Place.
It interrupts the street's flow with a sudden, scary dead zone.
Locals remember when the 1925 three-story brick structure was a classic urban mixed-use building: Street-level retail including a pool hall frequented by off-duty cops, a small grocery store and a bar; the two upper floors housed dozens of airy apartments.
Shut up for nearly a decade, the once-handsome structure has changed hands often, most recently to a group known as Bapaz LLC of New Haven. These guys really fly under the radar: City and state records on them are thin, the company's phone has been disconnected and a spokeswoman for Prudential Connecticut Realty, whose sign is in the window, says "we no longer represent them but the owner won't even let us in to take down our sign." (Great way to move a property.)
Meanwhile, the ever-vigilant Hartford Areas Rally Together HART keeps this joint high on its list of blighted properties.
According to Marilyn Rosetti, HART's executive director, "it's actually a beautiful building and could be a real gateway to the South End, but as it stands now, it's a classic example of how one building can start to pull a neighborhood down."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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