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October 28, 2023

With lawsuit settled, Salvatore wants to shift $13.6M in public assistance back to apartment development near Hartford’s Dunkin’ Park

PHOTO | STEVE LASCHEVER Developer Randy Salvatore outside Dunkin' Park in downtown Hartford.

With a lawsuit roadblock nearly settled, Stamford-based developer RMS Cos. plans to soon launch a 228-unit apartment building and parking garage development just off the southwest corner of Hartford’s Dunkin’ Park minor league baseball stadium.

Following this week’s announced $9.9 million legal settlement related to the initial construction of Dunkin’ Park — a court case that has delayed development around the stadium — RMS Cos. CEO and President Randy Salvatore said he wants to shift more than $13 million in public funding recently diverted to a plan to buy and redevelop the nearby Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute campus in Hartford, back to development around the ballpark.

“It makes more sense to continue the momentum around the ballpark,” Salvatore said. “We are really shifting gears back to that now, and we hope to break ground by the end of the year.” 

Salvatore said he continues to negotiate an agreement to buy the 12.7-acre RPI campus on Windsor Street, a deal he hopes to close by the end of this year.

Salvatore said he is also working with the Capital Region Development Authority to refine financing details of the delayed North Crossing project. North Crossing is the name given to development around Dunkin’ Park, which is home to the Hartford Yard Goats minor league baseball team. 

In 2020, Hartford entered into an agreement allowing RMS to build blocks of apartment buildings and parking garages on city-owned lots around what was then a 3-year-old stadium. The plan was to build up to 1,000 apartments in successive projects.

RMS completed the first, 270-unit complex in 2022, and had planned to roll right into construction of a 228-unit building and a parking garage on a 5-acre parcel — known as “Parcel B” — before the close of this year.

Before ground could be broken, however, the state Supreme Court revived a lawsuit by Centerplan Construction Co. and DoNo Hartford. A few years earlier, the city had fired the related companies, overseen by developer Robert Landino, from development of the ballpark and nearby surrounding lots due to project delays and cost overruns.

The lawsuit claims Centerplan and DoNO were unfairly dismissed, and that DoNo Hartford has ongoing rights to develop the city-owned lots.

On Thursday, Mayor Luke Bronin announced a $9.9 million settlement intended to spare the city millions of dollars in additional legal costs, the potential of an unfavorable court decision and further delays of the highly sought development.

“I just think it’s great news and a testament to Mayor (Luke) Bronin’s leadership and ability to negotiate this,” Salvatore said. “It just clears the way for the future.”

While the Centerplan/DoNo lawsuit gummed up development around the ballpark, Salvatore negotiated for a potential purchase of the nearby RPI campus. The plan was to build a 269-unit apartment building and associated parking garage on a portion of the RPI property, with more development to follow in later phases.

To help fund the first phase of the RPI development, the Capital Region Development Authority and state Bond Commission this fall authorized the use of $13.6 million in previously approved funding for the stalled second phase of North Crossing, as well as $3 million approved for another aborted project in Hartford.

The legal settlement is expected to gain approval from Hartford’s City Council on Monday. Salvatore, on Friday, said he plans to shift his focus — and the public funding — back to the far more advanced second phase of North Crossing.

CRDA Executive Director Michael Freimuth said shifting $13.6 million back to the next phase of the North Crossing would still leave $3 million to rebuild financing for the RPI project.

Salvatore said that if and when he completes the RPI property purchase, he will immediately launch into an estimated six- to eight-month demolition of the campus.

Salvatore said he still expects to build 1,000 apartment units on the North Crossing properties. He said the RPI campus could ultimately host an equal number of apartments, although there is much planning still to be done. 

Salvatore said he doesn’t expect the shifting of the public funds to impact the RPI purchase. 

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