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May 24, 2022

New Britain Mayor Stewart smashes coconut to celebrate keystone apartment project for Myrtle Street revival

Michael Puffer | Hartford Business Journal Developer Amit Lakhotia with the broken coconut.

Westport developer Amit Lakhotia and New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart each smashed a coconut outside of the former Stanley Black & Decker headquarters in New Britain Tuesday, celebrating the launch of a $7.5 million effort to transform the vacant building into apartments.

Lakhotia is Hindu, originally from India. It is his custom to break open a coconut to mark special events, like the birth of a child or the launch of a building project. Lakhotia opened his coconut with a single, sharp, swing. Stewart took a couple swings, which wasn’t bad for her first attempt.

For Stewart, Tuesday’s ceremony celebrated a milestone project in a city that has seen a dramatic increase in development interest.

Lahkotia alone is on track to build or renovate about 285 apartments in various projects, with additional prospects under development.

“The city of new Britain is truly experiencing a renaissance unlike anything that has been seen in decades,” Stewart said Tuesday in a ceremony in the foyer of 480 Myrtle St.

Lakhotia plans to renovate the 135,000-square-foot building into 106 market-rate apartments over the course of a little more than a year. He's become a prominent developer in the Hardware City. 

New Britain Economic Development Director Jack Benjamin credited the city administration’s foresight into developing a special district for the Myrtle Street area that offers flexibility of use to help revive buildings that have long been dormant or underused.

 “The work here will truly bring more excitement and investment to the city,” Benjamin said.

Michael Puffer | Hartford Business Journal
TLong Construction President George Taweh uses a flourish to unveil renderings of apartment spaces planned for 480 Myrtle St. during a ceremony Tuesday. Taweh is an investor and his company is performing the renovation.

Stewart said the redevelopment of 480 Myrtle will compliment other projects in the industrial corridor, including the $1 billion data center development right next door, on another piece of the former Stanley Black & Decker campus. Massachusetts-based EIP LLC has state approval for a 44-megawatt “Energy & Innovation Park,” which will provide space to several information-heavy tenant companies.

Stewart said demolition to prepare the site of the “Energy & Innovation Park” will begin this summer. Fuel cells will start arriving in about 18 months, she said.

“The developments we will see in the Myrtle Street corridor in the next decade or so are really going to be monumental,” Stewart said.

Lakhotia, for his part, said he was attracted to New Britain because city staff and officials are incredibly responsive and helpful. That praise was echoed by the George Taweh, president of TLong Construction. Taweh is outfitting several New Britain projects for Lakhotia, including 480 Myrtle St. He is also an investor in each of the projects.

“This is probably the best town to work with from Boston to (Washington) D.C.,” said Taweh, who has worked projects up and down the East Coast. 

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