Office Complex In Downtown Hartford Sold. 300 Apartments On The Way.

June 26, 2023

HARTFORD — Downtown Hartford’s largest commercial landlord said Tuesday it has acquired a commercial complex at the pivotal corner of Trumbull and Pratt streets for $4.75 million and has plans to convert vacant office space into as many as 286 apartments.

Shelbourne Global Solutions LLC  plans would provide a further boost to efforts for transforming Pratt Street into an entertainment and dining destination blended with new apartments, many of them in historic buildings along the brick-lined street in the heart of downtown.

The 8-story, Trumbull Street office building across from the XL Center also includes almost all the storefront space along the north side of Pratt Street. The purchase now gives Shelbourne control over a majority of Pratt.

Pedestrians walk past the main entrance to 242 Trumbull St. in downtown Hartford
                                                               Pedestrians walk past the main entrance to 242 Trumbull St. in downtown Hartford Tuesday.(Aaron Flaum/Hartford Courant)                        

In the past five years, Shelbourne has acquired most of the south side of the street and, with partners, has pursued apartment conversions at 99 Pratt and 196 Trumbull, just around the corner.

Pratt Street is a major beneficiary of the city’s Hart Lift storefront revitalization program that is using federal pandemic relief funds for grants to fill long-vacant shops on the street. There are 12 businesses approved for Hart Lift grants, seven are for restaurants or bars.

“Our intention with acquiring 242 Trumbull is to embark on the repositioning of excess office space to much needed quality housing downtown,” Ben Schlossberg, Shelbourne’s managing member, said, in a release.

“Our developments at Pratt and Temple streets have, in a short period of time, achieved occupancies in the mid-90% levels, and the demand for additional housing downtown has been corroborated by the influx of quality developers to this marketplace,” Schlossberg said.

The mixed-use office building at 242 Trumbull St. on Pratt St in Hartford, CT
                                                               The mixed-use office building at 242 Trumbull St. forms much of the south side of Pratt St in Hartford. The corner of Pratt and Trumbull streets is shown here. (Aaron Flaum/Hartford Courant)                        

Schlossberg added: “The city’s and the state’s vision for a robust downtown ecosystem is now a reality, and we hope to expand upon it.”

In addition to new housing at 242 Trumbull, Shelbourne said it will maintain commercial tenants on the second floor and a mix of shops, restaurants and bars in street-level storefronts.

The seller of 242 Trumbull,  Northland, of Newton, Mass., put the property up for sale about a year ago, marketing it without an asking price. The $4.75 million is less than half the the $11.7 million Northland, once the city’s largest commercial landlord, paid for the property in 2003, city records show.

The difference may be attributed, at least in part, to the vacant office space on the upper floors of the building.

Last May, when the property was first listed by the Hartford office of CBRE, the commercial real estate services firm, floors 3-8 of office space were largely vacant.

Downsizing of corporate leases in downtown Hartford and throughout the rest of the region and country in the aftermath of the pandemic are raising questions about what to do with excess office space. One option has been converting the space to housing.

At CBRE, John M. McCormick Jr, Pat Mulready and Anna Kocsondy represented Northland in the transaction.

Northland did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said Tuesday in an interview that the structure is a “natural candidate” for a residential conversion.

Bronin declined to comment on a pending foreclosure involving Shelbourne’s ownership of three buildings on Pratt Street. Shelbourne is seeking to negotiate an extension of a loan that matured in March which financed the purchase of the structures.

Three buildings on the north side of Pratt Street.
                                                               Shelbourne Global Solutions LLC of Brooklyn,,N.Y. hopes to resolve a foreclosure on three buildings on the north side of Pratt Street. (Kenneth R. Gosselin/Hartford Courant)                        

“We would want to work closely with anyone who had control of 242 Trumbull because it’s a really important property that if reinvented could add a lot of residential units right around Pratt Street, which is emerging as the nerve center of downtown,” Bronin said.

Last week, Shelbourne said the conversion of the upper floors of 57, 65 and 75 Pratt St. to apartments or commercial loft space had not moved ahead as quickly as had been anticipated. The conversions include resolving both state and city building code issues, Shelbourne said.

In its statement Tuesday, Shelbourne said: “All landlords across the country are facing challenges as a result of current market conditions, high interest rates and the changing nature of workplace norms — at Shelbourne we are addressing those issues with confidence in the city of Hartford.”

At 242 Trumbull, which has anchored the corner with Pratt since 1926, there are 8 stories of office space that face Trumbull. There are 15 storefronts and those along Pratt are interconnected with differing architectural styles with a 6-story office annex above the Pratt storefronts.

View of The Gold Building from upper floors of 242 Trumbull St. in downtown Hartford.
                                                               Nearly 300 apartments could replace office space on the upper floors of 242 Trumbull St. in downtown Hartford. (Aaron Flaum/Hartford Courant)                        

It is likely a residential conversion would require public funding, perhaps with a low-cost loan through the quasi-public Capital Region Development Authority. Office-to-apartment conversions in downtown Hartford often have include financing packages with historic tax credits in the last decade.

Although a portion of 242 Trumbull could be considered historic, a large portion was added on along Pratt Street in the 1980s.

Hartford’s iconic One Financial Plaza, the “Gold Building”
                                                               Hartford’s iconic One Financial Plaza, the “Gold Building” is owned by Shelbourne Global Solutions LLC of Brooklyn, N.Y. and Hartford-based LAZ Investments. (Courant File Photo)                        

Shelbourne began acquiring Hartford office properties in 2014. The real estate investment and management firm now owns or has stakes in four major downtown properties: Metro Center, 100 Pearl St., One Financial Plaza, the “Gold Building,” and 20 Church St., the “Stilts Building.”

The Stilts Building fell into foreclosure during the pandemic, and the case is still pending in court. Recently, Shelbourne averted a tax deed sale by the city for delinquent real estate taxes at the Millennium apartments on Morgan Street.

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