Hartford to pay $10M settlement in ballpark development litigation

The Hartford Courant reports that after seven years and $6M in legal fees, the City of Hartford has negotiated directly with Arch Insurance Company and reached an agreement to settle the city’s dispute with the former developers — Centerplan and DoNo Hartford LLC — who were fired by Mayor Bronin from the unfinished Dunkin’ Park in 2016, and one year later, the mixed-use development around the 6,100-seat stadium. The $9.9M settlement is outlined in Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin’s letter to the city council calling for payment to the Arch Insurance Company that financed the completion of the Dunkin’ ballpark.

The city was victorious in a jury trial in the case in 2019. The developers successfully appealed that decision and won a new trial that was set to begin in the spring. During an afternoon news conference at Hartford City Hall, Bronin reiterated his belief that the city would yet again be on the winning side, but the prospect of years of further appeals — costing as much as $6 million — plus years of stalled redevelopment around Dunkin’ Park made the settlement the right option for the city.  Bronin continued by saying that the settlement “represents an opportunity not only to eliminate those legal fees but to remove the cloud of this litigation altogether […] and to allow the city of Hartford to move forward with the development of the parcels around the baseball park and to ensure the new administration can come in without the distraction of ongoing litigation.”

Since 2016, the city has paid about $6 million in legal fees to outside firms with expertise in construction law. Those fees, plus the costs of defending and settling the lawsuit bring the total expenditure closer to $16 million. Stamford-based RMS Companies — the developer who replaced Centerplan and DoNo Hartford — have completed one phase of the development around Dunkin’ Park, specifically the $50 million, 270-unit apartment known as “The Pennant”.

However, the litigation blocked RMS from advancing to the second of four planned phases for more than a year, but RMS’ founder and chief executive Randy Salvatore remained committed to the development.  According to the Courant, Salvatore said, “I’m obviously very excited about the whole thing,” Salvatore said Thursday, of the settlement. “We’re gearing up right now to go, so I’m hopeful that we can have a groundbreaking by the end of the year.”

North Crossing’s second phase identified as “Parcel B” will have 532 apartments, a 541-space garage, and 10,000 square feet of storefront space with construction costing $120 million. Parcel B development will be completed in two phases. The first phase will include 228 apartments and the planned parking garage. The remaining 304 apartments will be completed in the second phase.

According to the Courant, at the news conference, Bronin said moving forward with North Crossing was important for several reasons including:

  • Generating new taxes to help pay off the city’s costs in building Dunkin’ Park.
  • Rebuilding the momentum behind the city’s revitalization.
  • Fueling economic development.

Louis R. Pepe, an attorney for the former developers issued a statement Thursday that said: Centerplan and DoNo Hartford “are very pleased with the settlement of the claims they had against the City of Hartford in this matter, and they look forward to recovering additional compensation for their losses in the continuing litigation against the design professionals for the stadium project,” the Courant reported.

The new trial was scheduled for April 2024, but with this settlement, both sides have agreed that there would be no further litigation in this matter in the future. Visit the Hartford Courant for more details.

Source: Kenneth R. Gosselin, Hartford Courant, October 26, 2023. kgosselin@courant.com.