Spinnaker Real Estate Partners of South Norwalk has an agreement to purchase the historic 55 Elm St. and four adjacent parking lots for renovation and redevelopment. The sale could close by the end of the year. (Hartford Courant)
The Norwalk developer tackling the long-delayed rebuilding at the critical corner of Park and Main streets in Hartford is now poised to make another big move in the city — this time the purchase and renovation of a prominent, historic building across from Bushnell Park.
Spinnaker Real Estate Partners has signed a purchase and sales agreement with the owners of 55 Elm St. and its parking, now leased by the state of Connecticut for the attorney general and other offices. The agreement also covers four adjacent parking lots seen as key to redeveloping the area that has come to be known as “Bushnell Park South."
The sale, if completed, could provide another spark to the long-envisioned redevelopment of an area now dominated by an expanse of surface parking lots — some of them owned by the state — to the east of the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts.
Planners envision a transformation of the parking lots into mixed-use development, creating housing, shops and restaurants and a link between Bushnell Park and neighborhoods to the south.
Matt Edvardsen, a partner at Spinnaker, said Monday the developer is exploring a wide range of options for the properties, including apartments over retail, office, and potentially, a hotel. He declined to comment on a purchase price.
Both Spinnaker and the sellers — a partnership of Simon Konover Co., the family of the late developer Philip A. Schonberger and the Gersten family — confirmed the agreement Monday.
Edvardsen said Spinnaker is conducting its standard due diligence on the properties. If they clear those reviews, the deal could close by the end of the year. The properties had been on the market for a year.
“We would not have advanced to this point without recognizing the significance of these properties and the high impact redevelopment opportunity before us,” Edvardsen said. “As this project hopefully evolves we look forward to collaborating with the many stakeholders towards the creation of a realistically ambitious shared vision for the reuse and activation of these parcels.”
The five-story office building at 55 Elm St., visible at far right, and some nearby parking lots are shown in this 2018 aerial photo. The state laboratory building, at center, has since been demolished to make way for a new parking garage. (John Woike / The Hartford Courant)
Spinnaker’s acquisition of the 1926 limestone edifice and the surrounding parking lots would be its second high-profile project in the city in the past two years. Spinnaker and its partner, Hartford-based Freeman Cos., expect to begin construction later this year on a $26 million apartment and retail development on two blighted, city-owned properties straddling the intersection of Park and Main streets.
“Together with our Park and Main activities, we are also looking forward to becoming an increasingly active corporate citizen within the city,” Edvardsen said.
The redevelopment of the Bushnell Park South area has been talked about for decades. But momentum started building in recent years with the $205 million renovation of the venerable State Office Building on Capitol Avenue and the construction of a new parking garage at the corner of Buckingham and Washington streets.
The state is ending its lease at 55 Elm St. once the State Office Building renovation is complete later this year. The attorney general and other constitutional officers, including comptroller and treasurer, will relocate from 55 Elm St. to the State Office Building.
Later this year, construction on a $16 million parking garage is expected to begin on the site of the former, now-demolished state laboratory building. The garage, which would eventually be hidden by other structures built around it, would be the first piece of “district parking," parking that would be shared by multiple users in the new neighborhood.
Michael W. Freimuth, executive director of the Capital Region Development Authority, said he has been approached by Spinnaker about the potential for public funding for the new development. So far, discussions have been big picture with not a lot of specifics, he said.
“CRDA seeks a neighborhood-scale project, more than just a rehab of 55 Elm and has had extensive conversations with the city, the Bushnell and Konover over the last couple of years to this point,” Freimuth said, in a text.
An early rendering of the mixed-use development proposed for the corner of Park and Main streets on the southern entrance to downtown. The city has chosen the partnership of Spinnaker Real Estate Partners of Norwalk and Hartford-based Freeman Cos. as the preferred developer. (Handout)
How quickly future development involving CRDA loans and equity investments moves forward will depend on funding approvals by the State Bond Commission. The commission, under Gov. Ned Lamont, has met less frequently and with leaner agendas than Lamont’s predecessor, former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.