Hartford is justifiably proud of its legacy of the perfect six - that iconic three-story, two-abreast apartment building. Their bricked bow-fronted facades are scattered throughout the city and are especially prevalent in Frog Hollow, where they've served generations of working families.
These days, Zion Street is sporting two mixed-income housing projects - one new construction and one rehab - that do justice to the perfect six tradition.
Last summer, Mutual Housing Association of Greater Hartford, which has a good track record of creating affordable homes, broke ground on construction of a 24-unit project at the crest of Zion Street between Ward and Summit streets. In a stroke of design inspiration, New Haven architect Paul Bailey created a row of connected units, similar to those in Philadelphia, while at the same time honoring the distinctive perfect six aesthetic.
Down the street, closer to Park, is Brick Hollow, a project in which 10 historically significant but badly blighted perfect sixes are being turned into upgraded rental apartments. Like Mutual Housing, developer Curt von Braun of Burlington, Mass., received a mixture of city, state and federal funds for his Brick Hollow project.
Of course, unlike new construction, a rehab project is restrained by the rigors of preservation, and the challenges are quite different.
Here, the trick was to renovate the original perfect sixes in a way that would respect their architecture and original details - including tin cornices and brownstone foundations - and still accommodate today's renters, who expect more space and amenities than turn-of-the-century families.
"We've managed to save 10 of the most beautiful structures in the area, and restore them in a way that really cements the corners of the block, so that from there you can infill the entire street," said Maria DeMarco, president of DeMarco Management Corp., which serves as property manager for both projects. She credits historian David Ransom, who served as project consultant, with helping the developer "resolve the inherent tension between preservation and function."
Between the two projects, rental prices range from $195 to $750. DeMarco will begin showing units in the new construction project (which as of now has no formal name) toward the end of July and in Brick Hollow toward the end of the year. She can be reached at 860-951-9411.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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