Renovation Project in Hartford's Asylum Hill Gets $500K Donation
By VANESSA DE LA TORRE
December 06, 2012
HARTFORD — — A $1.7 million project to rehabilitate a three-story building on the corner of Ashley and Garden streets has received a $500,000 donation from Connecticut Light & Power, officials from the Northside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance said Thursday.
The money will finance the restoration of four apartments on the second floor of 207 Garden St., a property that has been key to revitalization efforts in the Asylum Hill area.
"Ashley Street is a gateway to the Asylum Hill neighborhood," said Ken Johnson, the alliance's executive director. The blighted, blond-brick building had become "a symbol of the decline of the neighborhood as a whole."
Among the alliance's members are Aetna, Webster Bank, Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, and The Hartford Financial Services Group, whose headquarters are a brief walk from the property.
After trying to negotiate a deal for years, the alliance finally acquired the former home of the Ashley Café — the site of frequent nuisance complaints — for $323,500 in 2010.
Facade improvements, including the installation of new windows in the 11,000-square-foot building, began this summer. The city has contributed $141,000 to the project, according to Maribel La Luz, a spokeswoman for Mayor Pedro Segarra.
Johnson said the alliance has identified a potential tenant for the commercial office space on the third floor. On the ground level, a pizza shop and a liquor store are leasing space, but the prominent storefront that once housed the Ashley Café remains empty.
"We think once it's been revitalized, a top-to-bottom renovation, it will attract new interest for the area," said Johnson, who expects the building to be renovated by late 2013 or early 2014. "This is the last big piece of the puzzle that needs to be corrected."
The property is now being called the Zunner Building, named after the late Hartford architect who designed the 1926 structure and hundreds of others in the city.
Since 2006, the alliance has rehabilitated six homes neighboring the building, and more recently provided funding for new decorative street lighting along Ashley Street.
In May, Johnson said, the alliance held the first annual Landscape Designers Challenge in which 14 landscape architects from around the state helped beautify the front yards of Ashley Street homes.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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