The historic Swift Factory property on Love Lane in Hartford's Northeast neighborhood was deeded last week to Northeast Neighborhood Partners, Inc., (NNPI) a not for profit established to convert the former gold leaf factory into an affordable workspace for craftspeople, artists and other creative businesses. The property will feature sustainable design and incorporate an urban agriculture initiative and space for community programs. The heirs of Matthew Swift, who established the business in 1868, donated the property to NNPI.
The project will be developed on a turn key basis by Common Ground, developer of the Hollander Foundation Center at 410 Asylum Street in downtown Hartford. Northeast Neighborhood Partners is led by Rosanne Haggerty, who is also the founder and president of Common Ground. Legal representation, essential given the complex and challenging nature of this endeavor, was provided on a pro bono basis by two Hartford law firms. NNPI was represented by partner Franca DeRosa of Brown Rudnick LLP, who assisted with environmental due diligence, assessment of potential environmental liabilities, and environmental regulatory filings. Partners Peter Chadwick and Rosemary Ayers of Day Pitney LLP assisted with NNPI's formation and application for tax exempt status and the legal aspects of the real estate transaction.
M. Swift & Sons, Incorporated operated continuously from 1868 until 2004. Not finding a buyer for property, the Swift family reluctantly prepared to demolish the buildings. Local residents and the Hartford Preservation Alliance approached Common Ground for help. "Common Ground develops and operates housing and related retail space, but in discussions with community leaders, local organizations and residents, it was clear that job creation needed to be the focus of the Swift site, not just housing," said Haggerty. "Thus the idea for a new organization was born, to focus on job creation and community development in the Northeast using the Swift site to anchor that effort."
Yet the project faced a significant challenge: like many former industrial sites, areas of the property require environmental investigation and remediation. Before a viable re-use plan could be put in place, resources were needed to identify remaining contaminants and estimate remedial costs. Working with the City of Hartford's Department of Development, Haggerty applied to the State's Brownfield Pilots program, administered by the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), which also arranged for additional testing of site conditions through their EPA Assessment program. In August, a $600,000 remediation grant was awarded to the project, allowing the plan to proceed.
Mayor Pedro E. Segarra says, "For decades, the Swift Factory was a major employer in the City. The Northeast neighborhood in particular is in critical need of investments and job opportunities. This development will not just meet both of those needs but will also generate green technology opportunities and develop quality housing. This investment is a down-payment on Hartford's future and is a homerun for our residents right now."
"The Department of Economic and Community Development is a proud supporter of this project that will turn a dilapidated factory into an important asset for the community, and help to create jobs and an urban agriculture center for local residents," said Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Joan McDonald.
"The Swift project is a major opportunity for residents of the Northeast neighborhood to fully involve itself in plans to revitalize a significant sector of our city, providing jobs and job training opportunities, providing a commercial and retail anchor for the community at large and, finally, providing hope and the realization of dreams for thousands of residents," said Darlene R. Childs, President of the Northeast NRZ.
"The Hartford Preservation Alliance is thrilled to be working with Common Ground again by saving and adaptively reusing another Hartford landmark for 21st century use," said Tomas Nenortas, Director of Programs. "As with The Hollander, our collaboration will transform a derelict site, ripe for economic development, into a quality community asset for the Northeast neighborhood. We are committed to advocating for the preservation and revitalization of the Capital City's unique architectural heritage and neighborhood character and look forward to the rebirth of the Swift Factory complex."
Northeast Neighborhood Partners will next develop and implement the remediation plan and work with partners to create detailed plans for each element of the project. The rehabilitation of the factory and two historic homes on the property will likely be financed using New Markets and Historic Rehabilitation tax credits, along with grants and in-kind support. "We hope to restore the two homes on the site with volunteer help," said Haggerty. "We see the Swift Factory as an opportunity to bring the energies of many people and organizations together, and the best ideas on building safer, healthier and more prosperous communities. We are looking for creative people and committed institutions to be part of this."