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October 26, 2023

Hartford reaches tentative $9.9M settlement with Dunkin’ ballpark developer Centerplan; sets stage for hundreds of new apartments 

PHOTO | Steve Laschever Robert A. Landino, founder/CEO, Centerplan Cos., Middletown.

The city of Hartford has reached a tentative $9.9 million settlement with an insurance company and Middletown developer, ending a legal challenge that has held up construction of hundreds of apartments in lots around the Dunkin’ minor league baseball stadium.

The settlement resolves a dispute that began in 2016, when the city fired Middletown-based Centerplan Cos. from the construction of the stadium, and canceled an agreement to allow a related company, DoNo Hartford LLC, to build blocks of apartments on vacant lots around the ballpark.

Hartford Mayor Bronin informed City Council members of the settlement in an email issued Thursday.

After firing DoNo, the city inked an agreement allowing Stamford-based RMS Cos. to build on the city-controlled properties around the park.  RMS opened its first 270-unit development, called “The Pennant,” just south of the ball field last year. 

RMS had planned to immediately launch construction of a 522-space parking facility and another 528 apartments just southwest of the stadium.

Those plans hit a roadblock when the Connecticut Supreme Court, last May, ordered a new trial for Centerplan and DoNo Hartford LLC's appeal of their termination. DoNo Hartford claimed the right to build on the remaining lots and even claimed a stake in the completed apartment building.

According to a letter Bronin sent to members of the City Council Thursday, the city has agreed to give $9.9 million to Arch Insurance, which paid approximately $34 million to complete the stadium after Centerplan’s dismissal.

Arch then won a $39 million judgment against Centerplan, which had been partially paid by the developer, but then ballooned as interest accrued.

The settlement announced Thursday will see Arch drop its claim against Centerplan and pass on $1.8 million to the developer. Centerplan and DoNo Hartford will drop their claims against the city.

Attorney Louis Pepe of McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter LLP – representing Centerplan and DoNo Hartford LLC – said the settlement will allow Centerplan CEO Robert Landino to again become active in development and business without an enormous judgment hanging over his head.

Pepe said Centerplan and DoNo will continue to seek damages from Pendulum Studio II, an architect that the builder faulted in part for cost overruns and delays.

“Centerplan and Hartford DoNo are very pleased with the settlement of the claims they had against the City of Hartford in this matter, and we look forward to recovering additional compensation for their losses in the continuing litigation against the design professionals in the stadium project,” Pepe said.

Bronin said the claim will be paid out from prior years’ surpluses and will not affect the current city budget or result in tax increases. The settlement will also allow development to go ahead on the parcels around the stadium, he told council members.

Bronin will ask for the City Council to accept the settlement in a specially called meeting on Monday.

The city has paid millions to defend its actions, and would likely have paid $5 million to $6 million more in the ongoing litigation, Bronin wrote to the council.

The settlement spares the additional expense and the risk of an unfavorable trial outcome. It also avoids additional years of holdup of development around the ball field, said Bronin, who did not stand for reelection and is in the waning weeks of his administration. Bronin said he is glad to reach a conclusion before the close of his term.

“I also believe that it is important to allow the new administration to move forward without the cost and distraction of a new trial and inevitable appeals,” Bronin wrote. 

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