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October 8, 2021

Downtown Hartford properties, including vacant fire house, move closer to redevelopment

HBJ File Photo Wonder Works Construction is moving forward with plans to redevelop the former fire station on Pearl Street in downtown Hartford into apartments.

The Capital Regional Development Authority helped the city of Hartford move one step closer to selling two downtown properties to a developer with plans to convert them into apartments.

The CRDA’s Housing and Neighborhood Committee on Friday approved two loans that will enable New York-based Wonder Works Construction to purchase and renovate city-owned properties at 525 Main St., and 275 Pearl St.

Each building is about 32,000 square feet.

The loans are funded by a municipal revolving fund but the CRDA will administer them. It’s part of an agreement by the CRDA and Hartford to partner on economic development in the city.

“These are projects the city is going to fund and asked CRDA to service and manage,” CRDA Executive Director Michael Freimuth said.

The Hartford City Council must approve selling the buildings to Wonder Works.

The city wants $425,000 for 525 Main St., across from City Hall. A $7.8 million redevelopment would convert it to 42 residential units, including nine affordable apartments, and maintain 2,750 square feet of retail space on the ground floor.

Funding for the $7.8 million would include a $3.2 million bank loan and a $2.1 million municipal loan that CRDA would administer.

The city also wants to sell Wonder Works a vacant firehouse at 275 Pearl St. The $9.4 million project would create 39 market rate apartments and 4,000 square feet of retail space. Wonder Works has already signed a restaurant letter of intent.

The $360,000 sales price requires Wonder Works to undertake any necessary environmental remediation.

Funding for the $9.4 million project includes a $3 million bank loan, $2.4 million CRDA residential loan and $450,000 CRDA retail fit out loan, both of which are funded by the municipal revolving fund. The restaurant owner will also invest $230,000, Freimuth said.

Historic credits and equity will round out funding for each project. In each project, the city will defer payment of the sale price as well as taxes. The projects will be done in tandem.

“We think these are important properties to get redeveloped, bring back to life and get occupied,” Mayor Luke Bronin said. “It’s the right long-term move for the cities and these properties.”

The developments are expected to take up to two years to complete, Freimuth said.

As part of the deal, Wonder Works will also have an option on two vacant city-owned lots at 17 and 21 Wells St.

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