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September 16, 2023

Prominent developer Martin Kenny, 67, dies; partners to honor legacy by continuing work

HBJ PHOTO | MICHAEL PUFFER Martin Kenny, owner of Hartford-based Lexington Partners, inside the former sanctuary at the Sisters of St. Joseph convent property in West Hartford.

Martin J. Kenny, one of Hartford’s and Connecticut’s most prominent developers, died unexpectedly Saturday morning of a heart attack, according to his business partner.  

He was 67. 

Kenny built thousands of apartments over 30 years, and had hundreds more under various stages of design and development at the time of his death.

Kenny’s closest friends and business partners say they plan to honor his legacy by completing ongoing projects and pursuing additional ones under the Lexington Partners banner, which Kenny founded.

Kenny’s more recent projects include a nearly completed 292-unit apartment redevelopment of the former Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery convent in West Hartford, and the creation of more than 200 apartments in various projects around the historic Pratt Street retail corridor in downtown Hartford.

“He had that vision, and he had that persistence that makes stuff happen,” said Chris Reilly, president of property management at Lexington Partners.

Over six years with Lexington, Reilly watched Kenny grow the Hartford-based company from a staff of six to 130, tackling multifamily developments in Hartford, surrounding communities and beyond.

“I’ve been in this business for 40 years,” Reilly said. “Watching Marty get up every morning and do his thing when there are so many doubters, and actually build things from nothing or transform an old mill or office building that wasn’t being used well into housing for people is just something very, very special.”

Kenny partnered with his longtime friend Alan Lazowski – head of nationwide parking giant Laz Parking – on every development. The pair was recently recruited into a development team planning an $841 million, 1,000-unit apartment and mixed-use redevelopment of Founders Plaza along the bank of the Connecticut River in East Hartford. Their addition lent a greater degree of certainty to the hugely ambitious project.

“He made the project more likely,” agreed East Hartford Mayor Michael Walsh. “He was full of excitement in any project he did. We were looking forward to his energy and enthusiasm.”

Walsh, reached Saturday, said he is less focused on the project at present and more concerned with offering his condolences to Kenny’s family.

Lazowski and others say they plan to complete Kenny’s projects, including the “Port Eastside” development in East Hartford, as a testament to his legacy.

“We have a lot to be thankful to him for, including the resurgence of downtown Hartford with the (100-apartment) Trumbull on the Park he developed in 2001,” Lazowski said. “What we need to do now is honor Marty’s legacy to continue to not only finish the projects that we have on the slate but many more projects to come.”

Kenny’s friends and colleagues agree one of his great joys was working with his two adult sons, Patrick and Kevin, who both have positions at Lexington.

Kenny learned development under the wing of his father, Maurice, after brief careers in law and banking. In a recent interview, he said he felt “rejuvenated” after his sons joined Lexington.

Kenny also leaves behind his wife Angela, daughter  Mallory, and eight grandchildren.

Capital Region Development Authority Executive Director Michael Freimuth said he has often consulted Kenny over the past decade, using him as a “touchstone” on trends in financing, amenities and other development facets. Kenny had a knack for navigating difficult financing, as well as balancing project profitability with public interest, Freimuth said. 

“There are very few guys who can match him in creativity and intuitiveness, what was working and what wasn’t working,” Freimuth said, noting Kenny stabilized several apartment projects in Hartford. “It’s a huge loss for the city and the region. He was just one of the good guys.” 

Reilly agreed with Lazowski they will honor Kenny’s memory by continuing his work.

“We hope to carry on his legacy in the company, but his presence is going to be missed,” Reilly said. “He was one of my closest friends in the world and a business partner. It’s just a massive hole in our lives.” 

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