January 31, 2019

DoNo developer Salvatore debuts New Haven hotel

Photo | Michael C. Bingham
Photo | Michael C. Bingham
The Blake's restaurant is named Hamilton Park after New Haven's historic sporting ground.
Image | Contributed
A breakdown of DoNo properties.
Photo | Michael C. Bingham
The Blake Hotel developer Randy Salvatore of Stamford-based RMS Cos.

The developer selected to redevelop Hartford's Downtown North (DoNo) quadrant surrounding Dunkin' Donuts Park has opened a new 108-room luxury hotel in New Haven.

Real estate developer Randy Salvatore and his Stamford firm, RMS Cos., unveiled the Blake Hotel at 9 High St. on Wednesday during a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Mayor Toni Harp and other city officials.

The sprawling hotel is named after Alice Blake, the first woman graduate of Yale School of Law. The hotel features an exercise room, lounge, bar and an upscale restaurant known as Hamilton Park. It also has space for conference and business meetings and will soon debut a 24-hour market.

The Blake is one of several lodging projects underway or being pitched in New Haven, including a Chicago firm's ongoing project to turn the storied Duncan Hotel into a Yale University-themed boutique hotel called "Graduate New Haven."

It is also the latest Elm City endeavor by Salvatore, who also is building a four-story retail and apartment building near Yale Medical School, the centerpiece of the city's Hill-to-Downtown redevelopment plan.

Salvatore's firm is also the owner and operator of Hartford's historic Goodwin Hotel.

DoNo in limbo

Hartford's plans to redevelop properties flanking Dunkin' Donuts Park remain in flux as a Superior Court judge has refused to allow the city to control the parcels from the project's fired developer, DoNo Hartford LLC and its affiliate Centerplan Construction Co.

In September, the city argued it should be able to move ahead with the $200 million project -- billed as Downtown North -- with its newly selected developer, RMS Cos., regardless of whether it was justified in terminating the original contractors.

The city has continuously asked the court to have Centerplan remove liens on the properties surrounding the ballpark so it can redevelop four vacant lots and begin building 800 apartments, retail space, a grocery store and 2,000 new parking spaces over time.

Last week, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin testified in court reiterating the city's need to move the project ahead to continue recent progress downtown. Bronin said the project would deliver significant property tax revenue for the city ahead of its revaluation in 2021.

The legal scrum between Hartford and Centerplan is now entering its third year.

It started when the city fired Centerplan in 2016 due to delays in stadium construction and a $10 million cost overrun, and then hired another contractor to complete the ballpark. The delay forced the Hartford Yard Goats to play their inaugural season on the road.

Centerplan then placed liens on the properties to block the city from developing the area, and filed a $90 million wrongful termination lawsuit against the city.

In August, Centerplan blamed six subcontractors for the construction hiccups, cost overruns and alleged poor work. It also successfully brought into its lawsuit several companies involved in the stadium design.

Michael C. Bingham and Natalie Missakian of New Haven Biz contributed to this report

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