Firms Signal Interest In Hartford's Downtown North Project

The deadline to submit bids for the development of properties around Dunkin’ Donuts Park is still months away, but several companies signaled interest in the project Thursday, turning up in Hartford to ask questions and see the parcels up close.

City leaders issued a call last month for firms to build on 32 properties across four pieces of land near the newly opened minor league ballpark, an effort meant to link Hartford’s bustling downtown to its North End.

Representatives from more than a dozen organizations came to the baseball stadium Thursday, when city officials gave an overview of the project and fielded questions.

Development Director Sean Fitzpatrick has said Hartford is hoping for a blend of retail and housing in the area. Multiple developers could be chosen.

“There have been many starts and stops, and I think this time they’re getting it right,” Patrick Hulton, director of corporate and legal affairs for The Associated Construction Company, said at Thursday’s meeting.

Hulton, a Hartford resident who worked on the recently completed Delamar Hotel in West Hartford, said he’s aiming to put a team together and bid on some of the properties.

“We’d love to do this,” he said. “We like the mixed-use residential and retail. Hospitality wasn’t mentioned, but we’re talking with a couple of hotel developers. We’d love to see them go with a Hartford team.”

The parcels, labeled A, B, C and D, cover 16 acres and surround Dunkin’ Donuts Park. The area is now a sea of parking lots. One property includes a bunker-like former data-processing center.

Parcels B, C and D, along Main and Trumbull streets, overlook the ballpark. Parcel A sits between Main and High streets across from Hartford’s public safety complex.

Thursday’s gathering drew a mix of big-name companies and smaller firms. Officials from Whiting-Turner, which completed the ballpark after the original developers were fired, attended, along with representatives from Shelbourne Global Solutions, O’Connell Development Group, Freeman Cos., JCJ Architecture, Fuss & O’Neill Civil and Environmental Engineering, Crosskey Architects, BETA Group, Langan Engineering, Richter & Cegan, Red Technologies, GEI Consultants, AKF Group, Aegis Energy Services and HB Nitkin, the developer for Hartford’s Front Street district.

Developers pointed to the ballpark’s successful first season — the Yard Goats sold out 41 of their 68 home games — as the impetus to build nearby.

“People seem to be supporting it,” Tyde Richards, a project coordinator for Holyoke, Mass.-based O’Connell Development Group, said of the team. “It looks like this end of town is just starting to have a resurgence.”

With the properties mostly vacant, he said, the area presents a “blank canvas” for developers — another benefit.

Yard Goats’ general manager Tim Restall said he hopes the team’s momentum translates into a thriving neighborhood around the stadium.

“We’re doing a good job of bringing people into downtown Hartford. Hopefully that excitement can carry over into the development,” he said. “I think it’s going to enhance the experience at the ballpark.”

This is the second time Hartford has solicited proposals for properties near the baseball stadium. In 2014, then-city leaders awarded the deal to Centerplan Construction Co. and DoNo Hartford, which had planned to build housing, office space and retail at the site, along with the new ballpark.

The developers were fired last year after they missed two key deadlines to complete the stadium. City officials in October also cut ties with them on the surrounding parcels.

Centerplan has sued Hartford for wrongful termination, claiming the city made dozens of changes that caused the company to miss the deadlines.

Hartford administrators have acknowledged that the legal battle with Centerplan complicates their latest effort, but said they chose to press ahead anyway. Years ago, when the city agreed to finance the ballpark, development around the stadium was considered a crucial part of the plan to generate much-needed tax revenue.

Developers have until Feb. 15 to submit bids on the properties.

Copyright © 2018, CT Now