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May 24, 2022

Former Parkade developer files suit against town of Manchester

Rendering | Contributed A conceptual rendering shows proposed development at the vacant town-owned portion of the Manchester Parkade.

The former developers of the Parkade site redevelopment in Manchester on Tuesday filed a suit against the town, alleging they were wrongfully terminated from the project, according to court records.

Manchester Parkade 1 LLC, the company picked in 2019 to redevelop the former Parkade site on Broad Street, filed the suit in Hartford Superior Court alleging town officials breached a development agreement for the project when the town announced in January it was nixing the partnership.

Harry Freeman, who is principal of Manchester Parkade 1 LLC along with his business partner Michael Licamele, said in an interview they believe they had been fulfilling the intent of the agreement when the town announced it was moving on.

“We had an agreement with the town that we worked very hard on, and we spent a lot of money, and the town just decided in January to just change their mind. But that's not really allowed under the agreement,” Licamele said.

Manchester officials announced in January they ceased their partnership with Manchester Parkade 1, citing numerous delays and an unclear timeline as reasons for moving on from the Easton-based developer.

Freeman and Licamele said the decision took them by surprise at the time, and the two said the lawsuit was the last thing they wanted to do regarding the project.

“You can't just unilaterally decide that you don't want to do the agreement anymore,” Licamele said. “They are claiming that the agreement expired — they keep using that phrase — but agreements like this don't expire. If you feel that somebody is in default on an agreement, because they're not meeting a deadline or time, you have to send them a notice, they have a chance to fix it, then after that you have a chance to cancel the agreement.”

Freeman said they’ve already pumped more than $1.2 million into the project. A Manchester town official didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

As for what they want out of the suit, Freeman and Licamele hope to continue work on the former Parkade site. They want the town to honor the previous agreement, which they say is still valid, and pay for any damages associated with the suit and halting of the project back in January. The suit also seeks an injunction preventing the town from entering into a development agreement for the site with another entity.

“We remain committed to doing the project,” Freeman said. “We worked tirelessly with the town and countless consultants to come up with a project that we think even exceeded the town’s expectations in terms of quality and the diversity of uses.”

The suit was filed by Hartford law firm Brown, Paindiris & Scott LLP.

Manchester Director of Planning and Economic Development Gary Anderson declined to comment on the pending litigation.

After moving on from Manchester Parkade 1 LLC, the town issued another request-for-proposal for the 23.2-acre property in March. That RFP closes Thursday.

In 2019 the town named Manchester Parkade I LLC as the preferred developer for the site. The developer’s planned $140 million project, called Silk City Green, would have converted the vacant Broad Street site into a mixed-use development with housing, retail space and a hotel. The project was expected to break ground on initial construction this spring.

The town and Manchester Parkade I signed a development agreement in April 2021, which was subsequently twice extended as the developer grappled with financing issues related to Department of Housing and Urban Development funding. Those funding issues were resolved, the developer said.

The town first bought the multi-parcel property in 2011 after Manchester voters approved an $8 million bond to revitalize the Broad Street area. Since then, all buildings on the site have been removed and it's been prepped for development.

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