HARTFORD — The first apartment building in the North Crossing development around Hartford’s Dunkin’ Donuts Park is ramping up amenities for city dwellers: a fitness center on steroids, a rooftop lounge and cabanas around a pool.
Yes, cabanas around a pool in downtown Hartford.
An enclosed outdoor courtyard with the pool, grilling stations, bluestone walkways and an amphitheater built on the property’s sloping lot is at the heart of the $50 million, 270-rental development, the first of what could be up to 1,000 apartments that could be built around the ballpark in the years to come.
“It really is our signature place where we expect people to congregate,” promoter Randy Salvatore said, pointing to the courtyard during a tour of the building.
The apartments, named ‘The Pennant’, a nod to the baseball stadium across Trumbull Street, are still being finished, with work expected to be completed in November. But the first 19 tenants have moved in and leasing has been strong with 104 units — 40% of the total — now rented and demand exceeding rental forecasts, said Salvatore, of RMS Cos. of Stamford.
“We rent them as fast as we can build them, it’s as simple as that,” Salvatore said. “If this continues, I’m going to say another six months and we’ll be done.”
Salvatore is already planning the next phase of mixed-use development, across from the ballpark’s main entrance. But the original developers of the ballpark and the land around it – fired in 2016 – are seeking court action to regain control of the property that Salvatore was later chosen to develop – in a much larger legal battle. off on termination.
“Lawyers are all talking, but from what I understand we are moving forward,” Salvatore said. “I can’t control what the courts say or do, but unless someone tells us otherwise, we plan to start in September. And clearly, the market justifies it. If we were bullish before, we are more bullish now.
North Crossing marks a new phase in the redevelopment of Hartford. Over the past decade, apartment projects have largely focused on the conversion of older, often vacant, commercial properties into rental housing. The efforts are aimed at boosting the city’s long-elusive 24/7 vibrancy and providing a much-needed boost to the city’s tax coffers.
Since 2014, 2,800 apartments have been added or are currently under construction in and around downtown Hartford, the majority of which are partly funded by low-cost taxpayer-backed loans from the Capital Region Development Authority . Funding for the first phase of North Crossing includes a low-cost loan of $12 million from the CRDA.
New, mixed-use, from-scratch construction near the ballpark aims to build a new neighborhood. North Crossing may be followed by a similar development in “Bushnell South” in the parking lots east of the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts along Capitol Avenue and elsewhere in the city.
In CRDA-funded apartment projects, occupancy remained resilient after the worst of the pandemic, after falling in 2020, according to the quasi-public agency.
Salvatore said 75% of tenants who have signed leases so far are moving in from outside Hartford or another state, proof, he said, that North Crossing is attracting new people to the city. . Renting, Salvatore said, isn’t just a game of musical chairs with apartment owners trying to attract tenants who already live in downtown rentals.
Strong demand for apartments has driven up rents in Hartford, throughout Connecticut and across the country. A recent report from rent.com showed that the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Hartford is up 14% from a year ago, to $1,747 per month.
Starting rents at The Pennant range from $1,500 for a studio to $2,200 for a two-bedroom unit. Sizes range from 537 square feet for the studios to 1,228 square feet for the two bedrooms. There are also two three-bedroom apartments at 1,379 square feet, starting at $3,300 per month.
But those prices don’t include the $50 monthly amenity fee, and parking adds an extra $100 per month per car in the 328-space garage attached to the building.
The City of Hartford has also agreed to help support affordable housing in phase one with federal funding, contributing up to $900,000 over 20 years.
In a development where the majority of apartments are at market price, adding affordable units has become crucial to gaining neighborhood support. An agreement provides for a minimum of 10% affordable rent, including 5% for families earning up to 80% of the area’s median income.
Salvatore said he had just started marketing the 3,500 square foot ground floor storefront space.
Salvatore, also a major developer in New Haven and a partner in converting the upper floors of the downtown Hartford Hilton into rentals, is optimistic about long-term rental trends. But Salvatore also said he was watching economic conditions closely, especially as growth has slowed and worries about a recession deepen.
“It would be silly not to watch what’s going on there,” Salvatore said. “So I think we’re probably going to get into a recession, but I’m taking a very long-term approach to all of this. In past recessions, we’ve built through them. We have to be a little more careful and make sure that financially everything is set up accordingly so that we can deal with it.
The completion of the first of four phases of North Crossing is also noteworthy as it represents a major step forward in decades-long hopes to reconnect downtown Hartford with city neighborhoods to the north.
The construction of I-84 in the early 1970s tore them apart and eventually became a stretch of desolate parking lots, a physical and psychological barrier. Planned mixed-use redevelopment near Main Street and Albany Avenue also aims to strengthen the connection.
North Crossing’s second phase on so-called “Parcel B” would include 532 rentals and a 541-space garage, plus 10,000 square feet of storefront space, at a cost of $120 million. The development would be split into two parts. The first to work would include 228 apartments and parking. The balance of the rentals would be completed in the second half.
As Salvatore moves forward, he said he is actively pursuing a full-service grocery store for development. Groceries are a top priority for the city to address the region’s ‘food desert’, made worse by the recent fire that destroyed Sigourney Market in nearby Asylum Hill.
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“We all think there’s a need here, and a grocery store will do well here, but the grocer needs to see the success and the momentum of development,” Salvatore said. “It’s one thing for them to see renderings of what we’re doing, and it’s another thing for them to see the actual building and the people living in the building who will be future customers.”
And that there will be hundreds more in the next phase, he said.
Salvatore said the likely best location for the grocery store is on “Parcel A” near the city’s public safety complex. He said it could be built at the same time as the second phase on “Parcel B” or later.
During a recent tour, Salvatore showed off model apartments and amenities. Dining areas in one-bedroom units that can serve as home workspaces separate from kitchens with pocket doors to provide a less distracting backdrop during virtual meetings. In the studios, pocket doors can separate the beds from the living areas.
The rooftop lounge is not yet cleared for visitors, but Salvatore points out the two-lane bowling alley and a multi-sport simulator. Clear garage-style doors open from the first-floor living room with its pool and foosball tables to the courtyard, spaces also intended to be an alternative for tenants who work in their apartments and want a less formal place than the building’s coworking space.
“Maybe they’ll sit by the pool with a laptop in a lounge chair during the day and work,” Salvatore said.
Kenneth R. Gosselin can be reached at email@example.com.