November 29 - December 6, 2006
By KEN KRAYESKE, The Hartford News Staff Writer
The city of Hartford has agreed to sell its parking lot at 1143 Main Street to Providian Builders in the hopes that Providian will enjoin the lot with its next door neighbor, 1161 Main Street, aka the butt-ugly building (formerly the H.B. Davis Store), the six-story white boarded-up behemoth on the west side of Main Street where Main meets Interstate 84.
Hartford native Joseph Citino is the prime mover at Providian of 248 Franklin Avenue, and from what I gather, Citino seeks to tear down the structure at 1161 Main Street and build a five or six story, 80 to 100 unit condo complex there in its place.
The concept seems to be moving, because on Nov. 13, the Court of Common Council voted to sell the parking lot to Citino for $55,600, provided that he buys 1161 Main Street.
Council minutes indicated that Providian is in negotiations with the current owner of the butt-ugly building, Edwards Development, LLC of Miami Beach, FL.
Hartford fans might recognize Providian as the jilted bride of Plaza Mayor, whose architectural plans for the corner of Park and Main were pretty much stolen by a partnership of Hartford’s leading Latinos.
Providian’s $26 million development there featured about 75 condo units, 57 retail spaces and 88 business spaces, according to a Jeffrey Cohen story from July 12, 2005 in the Hartford Courant.
The cost of the development at 1161 Main is unknown, and no answering machine picks up for the phone number listed for Providian in the phone book. Information is a bit scarce about this development, and I can’t say I blame Citino.
It is the first substantial plan for that site that has come across the desk of Mulu Deres, a principal planner with 15 years under his belt in Hartford’s Planning Department.
“People come up with ideas, but nothing as concrete as this,” Deres said.
Yet Deres said the idea is not written in stone, nor has he seen a site plan, although he wrote the report for the Planning and Zoning Commission, which approved Citino’s plan to demolish 1161 Main Street.
The preservation value of 1161 Main, a 100-year-old building is questionable, said appraiser Dean Amadon of Hartford’s Amadon and Associates at 100 Wells Street. Amadon has been appraising properties in the city for the past 26 years.
Getting rid of the building at 1161 Main will be a good thing, Amadon said.
“It is generally recognized that that building has passed its prime and it has become an eyesore,” Amadon said. “I believe demolishing it will have a positive effect.”
I couldn’t reach anyone from the Hartford Preservation Alliance for its opinion on demolition, but if I hear anything from them, you’ll be the first to know.
In March 2006, Amadon appraised the properties at 1143 Main Street and 1161 Main Street. By itself, 1143 Main Street is worth between $50,000 to $60,000. But Amadon concluded that if the lot at 1143 Main was combined the adjacent 1161 Main, the value of the empty lot jumped to $240,000.
And that is exactly what Providian plans on doing – grouping the lots together.
“The highest and best use for it is to assemble it with other properties,” Amadon said. “The development plan seems to make preliminary sense, you have to put each of the two pieces together.”
Combined, the two properties would be worth $1.5 million, Amadon said. But since tearing down the building at 1161 Main would cost $500,000, he reduced his estimate to about $1 million for the two properties.
“That’s about $40 a square foot,” Amadon said. “That is supported by land sales in the area.”
Neither Deres nor Amadon had a potential timeline for construction, but Amadon said the housing market in Hartford appears as if it will maintain momentum.
“Hartford was one of the cities noted in Money Magazine as one of the hot cities to consider,” Amadon said. “If you look at price points between Hartford, New York, Boston and Stamford, it is understandable.”
Amadon is currently studying absorption rates for recent downtown developments, and noted that the balanced range of incomes and housing stock is good for the Central Business District.
“I like where Hartford is right now,” Amadon said.
So I’ll be darned if I can figure out why the city, knowing Providian’s plans and the potential of the market, let the property go for one-fifth of its appraised value.
In moments of wild speculation, I wonder if the city had a quid-pro-quo for the whole Plaza Mayor debacle. Or, does the city just want the development so badly that it is willing to cut the price to make the project happen?
But if Providian could cough up $26 million in financing for Plaza Mayor, what’s another $200,000 for a parking lot? That $200,000 is about three teachers at Quirk Middle School.
So what gives? Hopefully, when development director John Palmieri returns, or his colleague Bruno Mazzulla is available, we’ll get more answers.