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Updated: January 13, 2020 5 to Watch in 2020

Incoming Hartford food hall only a piece of Mouta’s Parkville vision

HBJ Photo | Joe Cooper Carlos Mouta, a Hartford native, has ambitious development plans for the city's Parkville neighborhood.
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Carlos Mouta has developed more than 1 million square feet in Hartford’s Parkville neighborhood, but he’s just getting started there.

The homegrown developer/landlord has spent the last two decades converting numerous aging, outdated former industrial buildings into efficient and affordable living, office, retail and dining spaces across the Parkville corridor.

Now, Mouta is nearing completion of his most ambitious project yet: a food/shopping hall opening in Parkville in early 2020.

The so-called Parkville Market, inspired by New York City’s Chelsea Market and Boston’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace, has faced a number of construction delays since its Sept. 2018 groundbreaking.

But the redevelopment of the former Bishop Ladder Co. building at 1400 Park St., is back on track and expected to debut sometime in March, Mouta said.

Mouta, who also has a few real estate holdings in downtown Hartford, said he envisions the two-level, 20,000-square-foot Parkville Market becoming an economic driver for the area as it aims to create a family friendly entertainment mecca that showcases the city’s diversity.

“We have so much ethnic diversity in Hartford, but we are not celebrating all of it,” said Mouta, adding that the complex will create more than 200 jobs. “We want to create an environment where you come early and stay late. For me, there is always a reason to celebrate everyday.”

The market, whose first phase represents a $5.1-million investment, has five food vendors under contract — Disco Forno, Lucky Taco, J’s Crab Shack, The Portly Pig and Ceviche Bowls — and Mouta, with help from his daughter, Chelsea, who serves as operations director, is searching for another 20 or so ethnic food vendors that will each take up about 400 square feet of kiosk space.

Mouta said he could have easily leased the remaining food stations by now, but he is being selective in his search for the best Cuban, Jamaican, Brazilian, Asian and Indian food the area has to offer.

In total, Parkville Market will have 42 kiosks for food, beverage and shopping vendors, and potentially several rotating kiosks. Most come fully furnished with equipment, meaning vendors will not be asked to make significant investments in their space.

“We want to make sure the people who we choose will be able to respond to demand,” Mouta said. “I envision on any given Saturday we can hold 10,000 people or more there. The more prepared and trained people are the better it will be.”

HBJ Photo | Bill Morgan
Hartford developer Carlos Mouta and daughter, Chelsea Mouta, in 2019 on the ground floor amid construction of their planned Parkville Market food plaza at 1400 Park St.

Parkville Market’s phase two

After Parkville Market’s grand opening, Mouta said he plans to begin work on the project’s second phase, next door at 1390 Park St.

The 10,000-square-foot building will be more geared toward entertainment with a bar, a virtual golf-simulator, an amphitheater for concerts and private events and potentially a rooftop winery, among other attractions.

The building will provide vendors with larger kiosks, ranging from 600 to 1,000 square feet, by the time development is completed in 2021.

Upon completion of both buildings, Mouta estimates the market will attract up to 40,000 people a week.

“We will draw people within a 30-mile range,” he said. “We’d like to give an opportunity to small businesses, and for people who dreamed of having a restaurant or just a retail place without needing to spend a lot of money.”

Other development plans

Developing the Parkville Market has been an arduous task, but Mouta is still finding time to dream up other ambitious projects in the neighborhood.

For example, he and New Britain toolmaker Stanley Black & Decker are working to open an advanced-manufacturing hub in one of Mouta’s vacant Parkville buildings.

Mouta is also looking to buy additional buildings on Bartholomew Avenue for apartment conversions and is working with his partners on plans to build a 400- to 500-space parking garage there.

Mouta, who built Hartford’s first “micro” apartments, is hoping to develop more of those units in addition to other “co-living” spaces, which are similar to micro apartments but with less amenities.

“I’m trying to Brooklynize Hartford. I’m trying to bring the pieces where people can live, work and play,” he said. “These buildings were once factories, then they became storage, then they became offices, now they are becoming apartments. Everything is changing, and you have to change with what people want.”

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