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August 7, 2023

Attempt to build and sell downtown Hartford condos ends with rentals — for now

Jose Ramirez converted the upper floors of 289 Asylum St. (shown above) in downtown Hartford to condos that he is currently renting.

While no condos have been added to downtown Hartford in well over a decade, there was a recent attempt.

Jose Ramirez in 2017 paid $250,000 for the top four of five floors at 289 Asylum St., a century-old, former hotel that he converted into the Hartford Lofts residential units.

The $1.5 million conversion, financed with $485,000 in loans from the Capital Region Development Authority, was completed in 2019, and yielded eight loft-style condos.

But the formation of a condo association proved challenging due, in part, to a disagreement with the owner of the 5,200-square-foot, first-floor commercial space underneath the Hartford Lofts, Ramirez said.

As a result, Ramirez said he was forced to rent his residential units as apartments.

“We had a difference of opinion with the owner of the first-floor unit,” Ramirez said. “Our plan was to sell the residential units, but we needed to stabilize the association. We were never able to move forward.”

Ramirez said he still eventually plans to offer the residential units for sale as condos. And he took a step in trying to make that happen in May 2022, when he purchased the first floor of 289 Asylum St. for $290,000, giving him control of the building.

Months later, however, Ramirez lost his first-floor restaurant tenant, Fornarelli’s Ristorante & Bar, which closed.

Ramirez said he needs to find a new tenant before he moves forward with plans to sell the residential units. He’s hoping for another restaurant.

“A stable, good first-floor tenant, that is the main condition for going condo,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez said he’s seen interest from potential condo buyers.

“Every year we have been looking at the condo market, it seemed viable,” Ramirez said. “I’m seeing a lot of condos change hands and hearing anecdotally that people are looking for newer condos that don’t quite exist.”

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