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March 20, 2024 Deal Watch

Long-running conversion of former factory in Hartford’s Parkville neighborhood picks up steam

HBJ PHOTO | MICHAEL PUFFER Chris DeGasero, co-owner of The Dead Language Brewery at 1429 Park St., in Hartford.

With plantings spread throughout comfortable seating and décor that lights up under black-light, Dead Language Beer Project creators Chris and Kyle DeGasero aim to create a fun and laid-back environment at their new Hartford brewery, located in a converted factory at 1429 Park St.

“It’s ideal to have it in the Parkville neighborhood, which is kind of artsy,” said Chris DeGasero, one-half of the husband-and-wife ownership team. “It has the Brooklyn, up-and-coming feel. We wanted it to be in a cool and hip area.”

The Dead Language Beer Project, which was launched with a $300,000 small business loan and about $200,000 in equity, is one of six recently opened shops and studios to open in the converted five-story, 325,000-square-foot former factory being transformed by Carlos Mouta, a developer who has focused most of his efforts on Hartford’s Parkville neighborhood.

Hartford Mayor Arunan Arulampalam joined Mouta and new entrepreneurs for a ribbon cutting late Wednesday morning.

"We are so lucky for the growth in this Parkville neighborhood," Arulampalam said. "We are so lucky for all the businesses that have invested and see the opportunity for growth in Hartford and here in this neighborhood. And so much of this is because of these business owners who take a risk." 

Today, the building hosts 96 apartments on its upper floors. Mouta thinks he can build out about another 20 apartments in a 20,000-square-foot office space that went vacant. That leaves about 10,000 square feet of vacant retail space. 

Mouta said he is hoping to fill much of that by recruiting an art gallery and events space. He’s also looking to recruit a fitness center.

“You come here in a year and it’s going to be more vibrant and completely full,” Mouta said of his building at 1429 Park St.

Developer Carlos Mouta.

New energy

Even before the latest recruiting push, the former factory already hosted a handful of tenants, including reSET, a nonprofit business incubator that works to foster small businesses with social impact.

It is also close to Mouta’s other ventures, like the popular Parkville Market, a collection of food and beverage vendors in a fun setting that once was a lumberyard. Mouta is slated to turn a nearby parking lot into a 57-unit apartment building and a garage with 350 parking spaces. Mouta said he has a $5.5 million state grant lined up for the apartments and $5.2 million in city assistance for the garage.

The Dead Language Beer Project plans to have a light selection of food, and is hoping to send its customers to the nearby Petrolhead Café, a lounge, coffeehouse and eatery that opened earlier in March inside 1429 Park St.

Petrolhead is meant to be a boutique sports bar for motorsports enthusiasts. It opened in the space of a former Peruvian restaurant that closed during the pandemic. 

Owner Kyle Mayer has two motorcycles, a Yamaha for the street and Honda for track racing.

Kyle Mayer, owner of the Petrolhead Cafe.

Saasha Plefka opened her Beauty Bridge Foundation Salon in a 2,500-square-foot space on the second floor in November. The hair and skincare salon offers free services to women in need on Mondays.

Plefka said she has “always loved the building.” It helps that there is free parking and it’s located along a bus route.

Parkville native Enrique LeBron in February celebrated the grand opening of his 1,000-square-foot studio for Retrospective Films. LeBron focuses on marketing work and documentary films. Most of his clients are nonprofits. LeBron said he wanted a workspace outside his home, where he could meet clients and expand his capacity. It was a “big step” and the first separate space for his small business. The area is also near to his heart.

“I was raised in Parkville, so it was important to have it here,” said LeBron, who still lives in Hartford. “We have a lot of artists in the community. I wanted to be part of that energy. I feel blessed to be here during this revitalization.”

LeBron’s business is down the corridor from Lux Studios, a new photography and events space. He also recruited his friend, Frankie Echevarria, to fit out a 500-square-foot recording studio.

Frankie Echevarria in his recording studio.

That’s about twice the size of Echevarria’s last studio on Airport Road in Hartford. Professionally, Echevarria goes by the name of DiMelo Nitty. He moved in, in September.

The building has other longer-term tenants, including United Sewing & Design, a former reSET incubator company that spun off into a 1,000-square-foot space in February. Owner Mary Ruth Shields says that’s more than twice the working room for her.

The business hires “disenfranchised” citizens returning from incarceration to create small runs of textile products, from designer clothing to medical-support wear.

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