April 11, 2012 | last updated June 1, 2012 1:48 pm

Sources: Islam eyes residential tower at Constitution Plaza

Middletown engineer and developer Abul Islam, who pitched erecting a 12-story retail-office tower on the former site of WFSB Channel 3's television studio in Constitution Plaza, is switching gears on his grand plans.

According to realty sources, Islam appears to be scrapping his vision for a $40 million office tower in favor of a residential project.

Full details of the plan remain unclear, but Islam is actively looking for financing for a ground-up residential development that would include around 200 units, realty sources say. He is also looking for state funding to make a housing project viable, sources say.

Islam confirmed late Wednesday his plans for a housing tower downtown with a retail and office component, but declined further comment until more details of the project can be worked out.

But with office vacancy rates in downtown Hartford still hovering around the 30 percent mark, and strong demand for housing in the central business district, the shift in plans could make sense, even though Islam has remained emotionally attached to moving the AI Tech Center forward.

Islam pitched his vision for a 12-story metal-and-glass-sheathed office tower during the thick of the recession in 2008, after purchasing and subsequently knocking down the WFSB-Channel 3 Broadcast House in Constitution Plaza.

Plans included moving his Middletown company, AI Engineers Inc., into two floors of the new building. St. Francis Hospital also had plans to occupy space there.

But obtaining financing to build the office tower has proven difficult, especially with a lack of tenants lined up to occupy space there.

Realty sources say a residential project makes more sense for the site at this time, but it still poses significant challenges. There are still site, parking and financing issues that need to be worked on, sources say, before any deal is finalized.


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