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September 14, 2023

Downtown Hartford’s ‘Cast Iron Building’ hits market amid economic uncertainty

Contributed The Cast Iron Building in Hartford.

Uncertain about Hartford’s economic trajectory, Keith Werner recently decided to put his 25,000-square-foot, mixed-use building downtown up for sale.

The brick, 1910-vintage “Cast Iron Building” at 235-241 Asylum St., features broad windows and an elevator framed with intricate-scrolled wood carvings. Werner, now 61, arrived as a property manager for New York investors in 1995, then bought the building in 1998.

A quarter-century later, Werner has decided it’s probably time to sell. He put the Cast Iron Building up for sale earlier this month with Berkshire Hathaway Homeservices New England Real Estate at an asking price of $3.2 million.

“Much as I would like to stay a landlord in Hartford, we have some issues causing me to question if I want to keep my investment in real estate,” Werner said.

Werner said he’s concerned about the city’s seeming inability to get homeless people off the streets and into shelters. Werner said he frequently encounters people sleeping in doorways, which is not healthy for them, or a good look for the city.

Werner said he is also concerned about persistent retail storefront vacancies and how growing office vacancies might impact downtown property values.

Werner said there are some encouraging signs, prominently the recent addition of thousands of market-rate apartments downtown under projects facilitated by the Capital Region Development Authority.

Tough decision

Werner said he has invested about $1.2 million in repairs to the seven-story building, as well as a deep emotional attachment.

It’s where he launched and then later sold a luxury photo album and stationery store. It’s also where he currently runs a coworking business and his professional services outsourcing company, ThinkSynergy, which employs 10 people.

Mike Puffer photo
Keith Werner, owner of the Cast Iron Building at 235-241 Asylum St. in Hartford.

“It’s been a very tough decision,” Werner said. “Part of the reason the decision is so difficult is I have always been a big supporter of wanting to see Hartford grow. It’s not as if it’s not growing, but there are certain things holding it back.”

Werner said he expects to reinvest proceeds through a 1031 exchange. He hasn’t yet identified a property in which to invest.

Werner said he hopes to continue operating ThinkSynergy from the building after any sale. At the very least, he plans to find another home for the business in Hartford.

The Cast Iron Building hosts the popular New York Deli & Market on the first floor. There are eight apartments on the fourth through seventh floors.

There had been plenty of interest even before the building went up for sale. Werner said he’s used to calls at least once a week from would-be buyers from New York or Massachusetts.

“At the time I didn’t choose to sell it,” Werner said. “It was just recently that I decided to put it on the market and see who gives the best offer.” 

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