WNPR

Front Street in Court

Feb 8, 2011

The retail development known as Front Street in Hartford is finally built and looking for tenants.  But the project took years to materialize, and now it's in court.

Front Street is a publicly-subsidized development that was geared to attract area people to downtown Hartford and the adjacent Connecticut Convention Center.  Here’s how George Royster puts it. He's an attorney for the state:

“Because people coming to Hartford with no place to go would not be likely to return to the convention center or the hotel if they had no entertainment or retail or places to eat.”

But the state’s original developer in the deal, Massachusetts-based Capital Properties, never got a serious shovel in the ground.  In 2004, the state cut its ties with Capital Properties and its principal, Richard Cohen.  And while the state looked for a new developer, Capital sued and the state sued back.

It’s a complex he-said, he-said.  The state says Capital Properties breached its contract by leaving Front Street without building it, and Cohen says the state breached its contract by not lining up the funding it needed to move the project forward.

The state had pledged roughly $51 million to build Front Street.  Efforts to settle the suit were unsuccessful and trial started last week in Hartford.

Today, Cohen took the stand.  Here he is being questioned by his attorney.

Attorney: Had you at this time or any subsequent time lost faith in this project?'

Cohen: I had my strong doubts about the state’s willingness to perform, but not ours.  And I was anxious to go in the ground.

Attorney: Did you feel that this could be a successful project?

Cohen: Yes.

Cohen is expected to take the stand again tomorrow.