More downtown Hartford apartments set

BY Gregory Seay

Gregory Seay
Gregory Seay
28 High St., downtown Hartford.
Yet another proposed offices-to-apartments conversion has emerged for downtown Hartford -- a $5.6 million redevelopment of the five-story Lewtan Building at 28 High St., next door to the Teachers Corner housing conversion underway on Asylum Street.

Vernon investor-developer Constantinos "Dino" Constantinou, doing business as CCAM LLC, confirmed Wednesday his plans to convert, partly with Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA) funding, his vacant, 35,000-square-foot office building into 28 affordable and market-rate studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments.

Units will range in size from about 600 square feet for studios; around 750 square feet for one bedrooms; and about 890 to 920 square feet for two-bed units, he said. As many as seven of the units will rent for $850 to $1,000 a month and set aside as "affordable'' for qualified tenants; the rest will bear market-rate rents ranging from $1,250 to $1,450 a month.

Constantinou, who says he emigrated to Connecticut from Greece two decades ago, bought 28 High St. in 2016 for $1 million. Built in the 1850s and largely vacant at the time he purchased it, the building is structurally sound, he said, and will require minimal exterior work.

"I love the building,'' he said. "It's been in disarray for three or four years.''

Constantinou said he senses the momentum downtown Hartford is building with the addition of more apartments, the opening of the minor-league ballpark, and the city's efforts to rekindle redevelopment of the "Downtown North,'' or DoNo quadrant, abutting the ballpark.

"There's so much happening there right now,'' he said.

Most of the renovations will be done inside, with work remediating metal-plating debris and residue likely to start this fall once CRDA and Constantinou's other financial partners sign off on a financing package for the development. Hartford's Crosskey Architects is the designer.

According to CRDA Executive Director Michael Freimuth, the quasi-public agency charged with funding certain economic and redevelopment projects in Hartford has pledged to help fund Constantinou's vision.

Of the $5.6 million development pricetag, $1.08 million is bank financing; $1.2 million comes through the sale to investors of historic tax credits; $1.37 million in equity from Constantinou; and a $1.9 million "gap loan'' from CRDA, Freimuth said.

If work on 28 High proceeds, it will be the final building in that block to be restored to productive use, Freimuth said.

CRDA has funded, or pledged to fund, more than 150 apartments and condominiums within a two-block downtown radius of Constantinou's development.

Next door, work continues toward completion of the conversion of the former Capitol Center office building at 370 Asylum St., overlooking Bushnell Park. Hartford developer Jose Ramirez is underway with his $1.4 million creation of eight condominiums above the former Mayor Mike's Restaurant space at 289 Asylum St.

At 410 Asylum, nonprofit Common Ground operates The Hollander, housing 70 units that it converted into affordable and market-rate apartments.

The Lewtan Building is named for Lewtan Industries, founded by Connecticut brothers Marvin and Robert Lewtan to engage in manufacturing and other businesses, including production and marketing of the Mighty Grip Jar Opener. Marvin Lewtan died in 1988.