There are two office buildings in downtown Hartford that have long been vacant. Now, developers are about to buy them and turn them into something the city's core desperately needs: housing.
Hartford's recent wave of downtown investment has yielded a few lessons. One is that the city needs more rental housing downtown. More housing brings more people, and more people are what's needed to make a healthy downtown tick.
Developers want to spend $42 million to turn two Pearl Street properties into retail space and about 200 apartments. The city owns one of the buildings, the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority owns the other. Last night, the city council held a public hearing on a plan. Also on the table are a tax deal for the project and a $500,000 state grant for environmental remediation.
The project will be paid for with about $14 million in state funding, in addition to private equity and bank debt. The developers include Marty Kenny, who developed the neighboring Trumbull on the Park project. He said the buildings have been vacant for far too long.
"And it's right in the center of town," Kenny said. "And as the developer of Trumbull on the Park, the fact that these two properties have been dormant has been a real setback for us and the city of Hartford...I would say, after a lot of hard work, we are at a critical juncture."
Other partners in the development team are Pennrose Properties, Alan Lazowski, and Sanford Cloud. Cloud is the father of City Treasurer Adam Cloud, who is now enmeshed in a federal grand jury investigation looking into his relationship with insurance broker Earl O'Garro and $670,000 in missing taxpayer money. O'Garro rented downtown Hartford office space from a company owned by Sanford Cloud and his sons Adam and Christopher. O'Garro also hired Christopher Cloud to be his lobbyist.
City auditors have said these arrangements caused an apparent conflict of interest for treasurer Adam Cloud. He's denied any wrongdoing.
"I don't think Adam's issues really have anything to do with Sandy other than the fact that Sandy is his dad and he cares," Kenny said.
Mayor Pedro Segarra supports the Pearl Street development project, which he says will create both jobs and housing in a city that desperately needs both.