HARTFORD — Downtown Hartford’s largest commercial landlord said Tuesday it has acquired a commercial complex at the pivotal corner of Trumbull and Pratt streets and has plans to convert vacant office space into as many as 286 apartments in the building across from the XL Center.
Shelbourne Global Solutions LLC plans would provide a further boost to efforts to transform 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.
Shelbourne, of Brooklyn, N.Y., which had emerged in recent weeks as the expected buyer, did not disclose a purchase price.
The 8-story, Trumbull Street office building 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.
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 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.
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. City records show Northland, once the city’s largest commercial landlord, bought the property for $11.7 million in 2003.
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.
“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 release 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.
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.
Last May, when the property was first listed by the Hartford office of , the commercial real estate services firm, floors 3-8 of office space was 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.
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.