You’ve heard of the Butt Ugly Building and Capitol West, but downtown is blemished by at least a half dozen other eyesores which have great potential. Eyewitness News can now report one of those vacant buildings is getting a new lease on life.
50 Elm Street is over a 100 years old and has been in gradual decline in recent years. A few years back it looked like it simply needed a few new shutters and some paint, but lately it is been an awful ambassador for Hartford to passersby. Situated on the edge of the busy Pulaski Circle with great views of the skyline and Bushnell Park, it sadly featured boarded up windows and broken glass.
The new owners declined our request for an interview, but according to the City of Hartford’s Chief Operating Officer David Panagore, Aneka and Judy Young of Avon have big plans for 50 Elm and the resources to see the project through. Panagore told me the building will be the new headquarters for the AC Young Company, which operates several McDonald’s in the city and the suburbs. Panagore also said there are plans for a cafe at 50 Elm and a residential component. According to a spokesperson for McDonald’s, it will not be home to one of their fast food restaurants.
The hope is this major investment in this area, a stone’s throw from City Hall and the Capitol, will spark renewed development in this part of Downtown, known as SoDo. Neighbors have long complained about the neglected Elm Street buildings and the detriment they were to the neighborhood. The historic building next to 50 Elm is also in dire need of a makeover, and the owner, local artist Dennis Peabody, told me a while back he was waiting for 50 Elm to sell before he fixes up his building, perhaps making it into a gallery. We can expect to hear something about his property soon.
There are other downtown buildings ripe for the picking. 111 Pearl Street sits at a major intersection. There have been suggestions that instead of sinking $5,000,000 into tearing down Capitol West for a vacant lot, that amount of money could do wonders in helping transform 111 Pearl into lofts and retail.
Thanks for posting this Dennis. Walk by this place everyday and always saw great potential in the location and structure. With the Pump House Gallery now operating, one could almost imagine a mini art community emerging in this area. Perhaps an artsy coffee house within walking distance to art galleries? As a resident of SoDo I have always lamented the lack of a local late night coffee shop, here or downtown. If that is what owners are thinking I would be glad to patronage their storefront ar least 2-3x/week!
I hope this happens, Dennis. My bedroom vista is of these buidlings on Elm St. Have long noticed the potential there. It’s the perfect little artery to Main St.
My new neighbors, the Youngs, and I have both BOTH invested good money in roof repairs to stop deterioration of our properties. Only a small percentage of $5,000,000 would assist us each with necessary facade repairs. These are Gateway buildings to downtown Hartford and are worthy of city assistance. P.S. A Tag Sale will be held at 40 Elm on Sat. and Sun., July 9-10. 9~4pm. Check it out! Best, Dennis
Dennis: While I agree throwing money at 111 PA bit of history, reality and perspective on 111 Pearl. It was taken by the City in 1983 through foreclosure from a developer who couldn’t get his project off the ground after spending buckets of money acquiring most of the properties in the Lewis/Trumbull/Pearl Street triangle (Anthony Cutaia now of Florida Ponzi scheme fame). The building was then mothballed by the City for approximately 20 years, and literally dozens of developers during this period, facing various economic and political conditions much like today, analyzed the development possibilities for it and/or other buildings at this site. Around 2001 Marty Kenney acquired the development rights to 111 Pearl while doing a great development next door with the garage, apartments and retail which today houses Salute. He also could not put together a solution for 111 Pearl, and it has remained in limbo, along with 101 Pearl, ever since. Lofts, retail, office, etc. have all been analyzed by real estate professionals at this site for years, and unfortunately the floorplates, ceiling heights and internal pillar-type construction of 111 Pearl have also added serious detriments to a successful re-development of the structure. Successful re-development of downtown buildings is a complex, multi-year task, requiring multiple layers of funding and creative professionals with vision, experience and always a bit of chutzpah. Phil Schonberger, Marc Levine and Sam Fingold come to mind with great results at the Residence Inn and Temple Street projects.
I share your enthusiasm of finding a solution at 111 Pearl, but am not quite ready to say the site is ripe for the pickin’, even with $5 million thrown in by a benevolent funder such as the City. A serious concept to make this corner “work” is actually to tear down 111 Pearl and build new, but a new building of just that size would be economically difficult. Therefore, the solution to 111 Pearl might be to tear down 101 Pearl as well to gain an economically viable footprint for a new building. Of course, new construction has its own set of challenges versus re-hab/re-development of existing structures, and you can see the ultimate solution to this very important corner in the central business district, remains elusive.