November 19, 2018
Commercial Real Estate

East Hartford's towering 111 Founders Plaza gets a refresh

Photo | Contributed
Photo | Contributed
111 Founders Plaza, East Hartford.
Gregory Seay

Other East Hartford developments

While 111 Founders Plaza gets a facelift, its hometown is considering, or in the middle of, other potential developments. The Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA) is working closely with the town, Pratt & Whitney, Goodwin College, and others, to redevelop the Silver Lane corridor — a major boulevard linking the town to Hartford and Manchester.

CRDA also aided East Hartford in unsuccessful talks to buy the 26- acre former Showcase Cinemas site fronting I-84 East, where the town once hoped to land a casino. CRDA was expected to advise East Hartford about redevelopment options for the property.

Meantime, possible development around Rentschler Field still remains an uncertainty. In March, Illinois developer Horizon Group Properties Inc. officially announced it was pulling out of a $105 million, 70-store Outlets Shoppes at Rentschler Field development, in the shadow of Pratt & Whitney's main campus.

For 46 years, East Hartford's 111 Founders Plaza office tower has stood as the tallest building immediately east of the Connecticut River.

The Travelers Cos. and former Connecticut Bank & Trust were among its lead tenants when the edifice opened two years after the 1970 debut of adjacent 99 Founders Plaza. 111 Founders housed the bank's data-processing operation. It also was the first home for a fledgling architecture firm, Amenta Emma Architects, hired by CBT to redesign some of its interior spaces.

CBT later was absorbed into former Fleet Bank, now Bank of America, and many of the original tenants, including Amenta Emma, have moved on or gone out of business. Yet, 111 Founders Plaza survives.

Now the building is trying to appeal to a new generation of tenants as it undergoes a refresh and looks to fill empty space vacated by several big employers in recent years.

"It's got nine lives,'' said Tony Amenta, co-founder and principal of Amenta Emma Architects, which, ironically, has been hired to oversee an extensive exterior and interior facelift of the skyscraper.

Landlord Merchants 99-111 Founders LLC is being advised on the project by lease broker Tom York, of Goman + York Property Advisors LLC in East Hartford.

Having recently gotten its first fresh coat of exterior paint in 25 years, the renovation team has turned attention to upgrades underway to the lobby-entryway. A new security/visitors' station is being added, along with fresh wallcoatings and flooring.

The first-floor cafeteria, a key amenity for the building's tenants and their guests, is being remodeled and a portion of its square footage is being glass-partitioned into meeting or gathering space. The aim, York said, is to satisfy tenants' need for useful, shared space beyond their leased real estate.

The upgrades, too, are part of the landlord's and York's near-term plan to lift 111 Founders' occupancy rate back into the 90s.

The building in recent years has lost several high-profile tenants, among them administrative offices for Connecticut Children's Medical Center and CareCentrix, both of which relocated to downtown Hartford.

Today, Jefferson Radiology, 1st Alliance Lending and Masonicare are its lead occupants, York said.

Future development?

Meantime, as 111 Founders deals with revolving tenancy and a renovation, its surrounding acres of free parking is being eyed by its landlord, the city of East Hartford and Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA), for potential development.

The list of possible developments is long and not yet set. But York and others point to its proximity to East Hartford's riverfront park and sweeping views of downtown Hartford — a 10-minute walk across The Founders Bridge — as attractive amenities to any east-of-the-river development.

One option includes building a parking garage to free acres of surface parking to development. CRDA is advising the city of East Hartford in those talks with Founder's Plaza's landlord.

In recent years, acreage adjacent to 111 Founders was redeveloped as a Hampton Inn.

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