Neighborhood leaders in Hartford’s Upper Albany frustrated by city’s decision to drop $22.5 million development at key intersection.

The article continued that the community leaders are in favor of an anchor development on the nearly 2 acres — including a sit-down restaurant in an area known for take-out food — that would be a big step in helping turn around an image tarnished by years of drug activity and more recently, gun violence. The developer, 7 Summits Construction, had planned a 4-story building on the corner with mixed-income apartments, dining and an urgent care center (rendering to the left) — an effort that had stretched out over four years.

It further indicated that a Feb. 4 email obtained by The Courant, indicated that Rohan Freeman, owner of the Hartford-based company, told Mayor Luke Bronin that the financing was currently in place for the Albany-Woodland Project. Two weeks later, the City sent an email to the Hartford Redevelopment Agency, the Capital Region Development Authority and others involved in the project. In the email, then-interim director of development services I. Charles Mathews said the city had decided to delay development on the site, at least for now, pending further study.

A rendering shared with community and business leaders in Hartford’s Upper Albany Neighborhood shows a new preliminary concept for the corner of Albany Avenue and Woodland Street. (Crosskey Architects)

In the said email, Mathews cited concerns about the financing and the mix of affordable and market-rate units. He also indicated that the neighborhood would be getting hundreds of affordable units just two miles away and the city also was pushing for more market-rate rentals. This spring, the city offered a new vision for the corner (rendering to the right) that includes a two-story, office building for house several tenants and a relocated city health department and a WIC clinic, plus retail space at the corner. Mayor Bronin declined to comment on the decision but explained that the city still prioritizes the redevelopment of this city-owned property that is located at an intersection (Albany Avenue – Woodland Street) that is shared with the Artists Collective and a branch of the Hartford Public Library.

The article continued that Mayor Bronin also pointed to a half-dozen other projects along the Albany Avenue corridor as evidence of investment in the community. These include an expansion of the library branch, apartment and storefront rehabs, and the renovation of the former Quirk Middle School for the Hartford Police Athletic League program. The article continued to outline comments by community leaders indicating their expectation of what they wish to see on the corner:

Precious Ross-Ellis, board member of Upper Albany Main Street, Inc: “What we wanted from the beginning was a destination point. We wanted to have nice sit-down restaurant at that location because Upper Albany is known for its food. And we needed something that was going to bring people from all corners of the city, state, people coming from the outside will know that they can come to this location. And it was very hard to get someone to invest in Upper Albany because there was a track record. There’s such negativity toward The Avenue and we had several developers that came about and then walked away.”

Marilyn Risi, Executive Director, Upper Albany Main Street (UAMS): “Just bring us something that is going to attract and something that has a name. Everyone says an Applebee’s. It didn’t matter, just get us something with a beacon that says “Stop.

Mark Mullings, elder, Faith Seventh-day Adventist Church: “It’s right in the central location of everything else. A banquet facility along with a banquet/catering facility with a restaurant would work really well because there are a lot of groups around here. What we do is go out to the suburbs to have eventsIf there is something of interest that is there, it will create action in the community. If it is something of good vibes, so to speak, it will create a lot of interest, but it will also decrease some of the challenges that we currently face. There is a stigma because of what Albany Avenue represents. Any little thing and oh, it happened on Albany Avenue. How do you change that? You change what you put there. So now, it will enhance what we are trying to do.

Herman Todd, owner, Living Word Imprints and board chairman, Upper Albany Main Street, Inc: “When I heard of Parkville [Market], this is something along the lines that I proposed along here ten years ago. I’m looking at small shops because the only thing that they are going to do there is rent a space, you put out your stuff, if you’re selling jewelry, if you’re selling caps or hats or whatever you sell, your rent your space. You would be able to get all this stuff new at a fraction of the price if you have to go to the mall. So, it would be like an outlet, but small and on a mini-scale. On one side, there is a stage and a bleacher where a band could perform while people are walking around. I’m thinking of something more lively because I’ve gone to places and I’ve seen these things and they actually work.

Fay Santouse, President, Upper Albany Merchants Association: “We live, work and play in community, and they shouldn’t be making decisions for us. This is the project, [pointing to a rendering of the 7 Summits development] with a little tweaking, that’s the project that needs to be on that property.

Hortense Ross, owner, Uniforms N Stuff: “We don’t have a sit-down restaurant in this area. My church is always having functions. We need to have space where we can really spread out and have a decent sit-down restaurant, whether it be for a wedding or some other banquet. Instead of going outside of our community. And something that is going to be adequate enough to say, ‘yes, I like that building and I would go there.’

Ellsworth Cross, Facade Consultant, Upper Albany Main Street, Inc: “We want to make sure potential developers do not go away. To hear that we are shelving operations, that we’re looking at scaling back development, it’s not an exciting thing for these individuals. This neighborhood is extremely vocal. It’s not that the people who live here don’t know what they want. They know what they want. They should be listened to. It shouldn’t be dictated to them what goes there.

For further information on this article, please contact Kenneth R. Gosselin at Bio: Ken Gosselin covers real estate and financial services for The Courant. He has more than 25 years of experience in journalism, beginning his career covering towns in Greater Hartford. In the 1990s, Gosselin specialized in business coverage, and has had responsibilities for editing special sections for business.