HARTFORD — The Bushnell's vision for creating a neighborhood of apartments, shops and restaurants along Capitol Avenue could be years from becoming reality.
But The Bushnell isn't waiting: It has purchased an historic brownstone around the corner on Elm Street, a deal that could become the first stirrings of that neighborhood plan.
"We thought, 'Shouldn't we acquire it and have some control over what happens to it,' " said David Fay, president and chief executive of the Bushnell Center for Performing Arts. "Our thought is that it could be renovated for residential use."
The Horace Bushnell Memorial Hall Corp. paid $575,000 for the brownstone at 97 Elm, a four-story structure that was built in 1861 and that once owned by Mark Twain's family doctor. The property, a former law office, was originally listed at $649,900 on Sept. 2, 2013, according to the Multiple Listing Service.
The brownstone is around the corner on Elm, but it is near both The Bushnell and the two or so acres where The Bushnell envisions the new neighborhood. The Bushnell has said it hopes to gain control of the former state laboratory property on Clinton Street once the state demolishes the building.
The Bushnell would work with a developer to create the neighborhood, and it would expect to derive revenue from the completed project.
Fay said the Elm Street building could be divided into four, upscale condominiums. The Bushnell has not determined how much renovations might cost, and any major move forward on the property isn't likely to happen until next year.
The Bushnell was able to shell out more than a half-million because a benefactor, which Fay declined to name, agreed to accelerate a donation pledge made to the arts organization.
The brownstone was once a house, and is just one of three that survives of the residential brownstones that once lined Elm Street along Bushnell Park. The Bushnell's brownstone has been significantly altered, "with modern windows and most of the architectural detail either removed, as with the cornice, or simplified by being stuccoed over, as with the window surrounds," according to the national register nomination for the city's Elm Street historic district.
One feature that does remain is the recessed entry. A plaque at the entry declares that the property was purchased "in 1873 by Dr. Cincinnatus A. Taft, leading Hartford physician and Mark Twain's family doctor. Members of the Taft family resided here for nearly forty years."Copyright © 2015, CT Now