Two Developers Vie To Build On Pivotal Corner of Park, Main Streets In Hartford

Two developers with ties to Hartford are vying to build on the long-vacant corner at Main and Park streets, considered a crucial connection to Colt Park, Bushnell Park and downtown.

Hartford-based CIL, the Corporation for Independent Living, and a partnership of Spinnaker Real Estate Partners of South Norwalk and the Freeman Cos. of Hartford, submitted proposals sought by the city in September.

The city released the names of the developers Wednesday, and the developers confirmed some details of their proposals for the 2.3 acres of city-owned land spread out on both sides of Park Street at the intersection with Main.

CIL, a nonprofit focused primarily on housing that recently converted the nearby Capewell factory into apartments, said its $31 million proposal was still in the conceptual stage and could evolve, if CIL is chosen, with discussions with the neighborhood and the broader community.

Initially, CIL envisions 100 mixed-income apartments, possibly 10 townhouses along John Street and about 17,000-square-feet of street-level retail space. Buildings likely would be four stories high, keeping to the scale of the surrounding neighborhood.

David McKinley, CIL’s vice president of development, said the project has the potential to help tie together other redevelopment of vacant land and parking lots nearby, including those planned around The Bushnell.

“They could really feed on each other,” McKinley said.

The Park and Main project would be the first foray into Hartford for Spinnaker, which has specialized in mixed-use developments in Fairfield County and elsewhere in the country. Spinnaker does have an interest in land now used for parking across from Bushnell Park and behind the TheaterWorks building.

Spinnaker's partner, Freeman Cos., a minority-owned civil engineering firm, has its offices near the redevelopment site. Freeman could not be reached for comment.

“We think Hartford is a much maligned community and it has much potential,” Clayton H. Fowler, Spinnaker’s founder and chief executive, said. “This is an area where we think we can make a neighborhood.”

Fowler added, “This type of project is right up our alley.”

Spinnaker also envisions 100-plus units of housing with retail space and parking, Fowler said. It is too early, he said, to estimate a total project cost but agreed it would easily run into the tens of millions.

The developers had differing views on the existing South Park Inn shelter and the South Green, often a gathering place for those seeking out the shelter and other social services in the area.

“Our opinion is that the problem with the South Green is not the existence of homeless people or a shelter but that there is nothing else,” McKinley said. “The shelter has a right to be there. We’re not suggesting that they be relocated.”

Fowler said he viewed the shelter as a “concern.”

McKinley said its financing would likely be a combination of public and private funding, while Fowler said there are “banks willing to work with us.”

A study last year by the Capital Region Development Authority underscored the development could provide the crucial connection for pedestrians in a city that is aggressively pushing downtown living and “walkability.”

CRDA’s study also makes a strong argument for closely linking South Green with any new development.

Jamie Brätt, the city’s director of economic planning and development, said the time was now right for pursuing the project, considering the recent leasing success of apartment projects just outside of downtown such as CIL’s Capewell conversion.

Brätt said a selection committee of city officials and community representatives would now assess the proposals and a choice could come by the end of the year.

Five years have passed since the last push to redevelop the blighted corner of Park and Main, vacant for decades. The city is now seeking a low-rise approach to development in sharp contrast to the failed “Plaza Mayor,” of the late 2000s that envisioned high-rise buildings and a main square.

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