Key parking lot now part of massive development in CT city. Option for federal courthouse withdrawn.

By: Kenneth R. Gosselin • Published February 29, 2024

A parking lot that is critical to redevelopment of Hartford’s Bushnell South has been purchased for $3.25 million by a developer already active in the area, and the lot also been withdrawn as a potential site for a new, federal courthouse.

Spinnaker Real Estate Partners of South Norwalk closed the purchase of the parking lot, at the corner of Capitol Avenue and Hudson Street, Tuesday, officials confirmed, capping a years long effort to assemble land for a redevelopment that could eventually include more than 1,000 apartments, restaurants, entertainment venues and public spaces.

“This completes the land assembly/control for the greater Bushnell South effort, allowing us to plan and build residential and associated commercial comprehensively, while better coordinating parking, traffic and storm drainage issues,” Michael W. Freimuth, executive director of the Capital Region Development Authority, said, in a text.

The quasi-public CRDA approved a $3 million loan for the purchase, which also now removes the parking lot as a potential site for a $335 million federal courthouse that would replace the outdated the Abraham A. Ribicoff Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse on Main Street.

Placing a federal courthouse within Bushnell South drew stiff opposition. Opponents argued that the redevelopment has long aimed to replace a bleak, swath of parking lots just south of Bushnell Park and bordering The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts with a new, vibrant neighborhood. A courthouse, they said, would not fit well with that vision.

Two courthouse options still remain: a state office building at 61 Woodland St. in Hartford’s Asylum Hill neighborhood and a parking lot on Allyn Street, just west of downtown’s XL Center. A decision is expected in June.

The future of the parking lot at the corner of Capitol Avenue and Hudson Street also has been marked by controversy over the erosion of parking options in the area for theater-going patrons of The Bushnell.

The Bushnell, an early supporter of the area’s redevelopment, has grown increasingly concerned about options for parking. The Bushnell’s president and chief executive David Fay recently told The Courant that its patrons are expected to reach the theater by motor vehicle for years to come.

CRDA’s loan approval included a provision that The Bushnell be given three years of access to the 250-space parking lot acquired by Spinnaker. The Bushnell also got a formal seat at the table, with an opportunity to invest in the development of first-floor commercial space and garage parking that is expected to be part of future development of the parking lot along with apartments.

The approval also includes a crucial provision for the development of a parking and traffic management plan. Parking and traffic will be a significant hurdle overcome not only for The Bushnell but for the overall development of the new neighborhood. Thousands of new residents would live in Bushnell South, plus visitors to restaurants and other venues that are envisioned.

How quickly Bushnell South is developed with depend on the critical issue of whether the strong pace of apartment leasing in and around the downtown area holds up. In the last decade, more than 3,000 residential rentals have been added to the downtown area and the immediate area surrounding it.

The development also will have to compete with expected public funding that may be sought to convert empty office space in the downtown area into housing.

The transaction also includes a provision that Bushnell South be developed according to the vision outlined by consultant Goody Clancy in 2021.

Spinnaker held an option to purchase the parking lot from its longtime owner, Simon Konover Co. and its partners.

Spinnaker is now nearing completion of the conversion of the historic, 1926 building at 55 Elm St., just a short walk from the parking lot Spinnaker acquired this week. The structure, built for an insurer and most recently used for state offices, including the attorney general, is being converted into 160 apartments in a $67 million project that is considered part of Bushnell South.

The developer, whose first project was the apartments at the corner of Park and Main streets, plans a second phase of apartments is planned on the parking lots around 55 Elm.

Spinnaker could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday morning.

Kenneth R. Gosselin can be reached at