March 8, 2019
REAL ESTATE ROUNDUP

On this New Haven deal, the buyer was dying to get in

PHOTO | New Haven Biz
PHOTO | New Haven Biz
The former Hawley Lincoln Funeral Home at 493-501 Whitney Ave., New Haven
PHOTO | Contributed
166 Chapel St., New Haven
PHOTO | Contributed
81 Farwell St., New Haven
PHOTO | Contributed
22 Maple St., Ansonia

Selling a funeral home can pose unique challenges — after all, superstitious potential buyers might be spooked by the building's past.

However, Kristin Geenty, Realtor and president of the Geenty Group in Branford, on Feb. 8 sold 493-501 Whitney Ave., New Haven, which includes the former Hawley Lincoln Funeral Home and a multi-family residence. The property's past didn't scare away the new owner, a local chiropractor.

"It was a long process," Geenty said. "Some people are very superstitious, and I suspect there were people we didn't hear from because of it."

The funeral home building is nearly 5,000 square feet, while the accompanying multi-family house measures 3,574 square feet. Both were built circa 1902, according to the original listing.

In spite of its history as a funeral home, Geenty says it is a beautiful structure. "It is a very warm and inviting place — it just looks like a big house," she says.

Throughout its time on the market the funeral home was still operating. "We never showed it when they had a 'guest' or immediately before or after a 'party,'" Geenty says.

New Haven chiropractor Francine Freeman bought both buildings, and she plans to use the former funeral home facility for her practice. The additional house will remain an investment property.

Freeman already obtained zoning approval from the city to use the facility for a medical office instead of a funeral home.

"I think Francine's practice will be a great addition to the neighborhood," Geenty says.

Freeman said she isn't fazed by the funeral home's past use or any specter of hauntings.

"Everyone wants to know if I'm concerned about ghosts, but the building has a peaceful feeling," Freeman says. "It doesn't have a spooky feeling at all — it has a good energy."

Initially, Freeman wanted to purchase only the funeral home, but she says the accompanying house is connected to key additional parking.

Freeman expects to move from her current location on Court Street by June, possibly earlier. She is doing some cosmetic updating to the former funeral home, including taking down old wallpaper and removing carpeting. There will be painting and repair work too, she says.

A large room on the second floor is slated for use as a yoga studio, Freeman adds. "We want it to be a whole health and wellness center," she says. "It is going to be a really special place."

Freeman is still investigating her options for the adjoining house which was part of the purchase.

Hawley Lincoln had owned the property for more than six decades, since 1956. Going forward, the funeral home business will operate out of locations on Elm Street in New Haven and on Boston Post Road in Guilford.

Bill Lincoln, president of Hawley Lincoln, says he is now sharing space at 424 Elm St. with the Celentano Funeral Home.

"By sharing space, we now have access to three large chapels and a large parking lot," Lincoln says. "We are also sharing the tax burden."

Geenty first listed the funeral home and neighboring house in November 2017, with the initial asking price at $1.425 million.

The group expected the property to attract law firms and wellness practices, as it would be ideal for them due to its size.

Geenty says they thought it "would be in high demand" and could attract as many as 10 potential buyers immediately. That expectation didn't pan out, however, so the price was dropped in February 2018 to $1.1 million, in hopes of appealing to investment buyers.

The price change almost immediately generated interest, and the realty group showed it to at least 18 different investors. They fielded four written offers, the first offer coming in within three weeks of the drop in price. An initial potential buyer dropped out of the process without moving to a contract so they kept showing the property. One written offer was too low. They also received three verbal cash offers, but for below $800,000. At one point, a non-profit organization was interested, Geenty says.

Ultimately, the former funeral home and three-family rental property closed for $1.06 million in February 2019.

"We were pleased with the sale price, and the seller was pleased too," Geenty said. "I think everyone got a fair deal all around."

Nick Mastrangelo, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker, represented Freeman in the deal.

Mastrangelo says his client has been practicing as a chiropractor for many years, and she saw an opportunity to buy when the building where she has been a tenant would no longer be available.

"She seized the opportunity to buy the former funeral home," Mastrangelo says. "She plans to have complementary businesses in the building also. It is nice someone was able to use an iconic location."

Lincoln, meanwhile, was also pleased with the outcome: "We found a good buyer, and I am happy the building will be transferred to a medical use."

Contact Michelle Tuccitto Sullo at msullo@newhavenbiz.com

TRANSACTIONS

Frank Hird, SIOR of O,R&L Commercial in Branford has sold the 48,971-square-foot manufacturing/warehouse building located at 166 & 128 Chapel St., New Haven, for $640,000. The 2.71-acre property covers most of a full city block and is located in the city's new "Opportunity Zone," established to incentivize transformational real estate investment in distressed locations as identified by local and federal government. The buyer, ART CT 770 LAND LLC, plans to undertake extensive renovations on the building over the next several months and then lease the facility to a manufacturing company that will employ approximately 100 local people, according to O,R&L. Hird represented both the buyer and the seller, Von Roll USA Inc., in the sale.

Michael Richetelli, president of Colonial Properties in Orange, was sole broker and represented the seller in the sale of 81 Farwell St., West Haven. The 11,000-square-foot light industrial building on 0.88 acres, located in the Allingtown district of West Haven, sold for $465,000 to JPSF Properties LLC, which will use the entire building for its recycling business. The seller was the William F. Killion Family Trust.

Richetelli was also sole broker in the sale of 22 Maple St., Ansonia. The 12,000-square-foot light industrial building on 0.64 acres sold for $500,000. The buyer was Ansonia Property LLC, which will use a portion of the building for its metalworking business, while maintaining an existing tenant in the remainder of the property. The seller was Danang Development LLC.

- Michael C. Bingham

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