101-unit apartment conversion in former Traveler Training Center in Hartford gets CRDA backing

The Capital Region Development Authority board on Thursday agreed to lend $3 million for an $18.7 million conversion of the former Traveler Training Center at 200 Constitution Plaza into 101 apartments.

Biagio Barone of Stratford-based Barone Properties has teamed up with John Guedes, chairman of Bridgeport builder Primrose Cos. for the redevelopment of the five-story, approximately 125,000 square foot concrete building located on the northeast edge of downtown Hartford.

“We thought it was a great location,” Guedes told the Hartford Business Journal. “We really believe that the new wave of development is for inner cities, especially for young professionals and empty nests.”

Meeting Thursday, the CRDA board of directors unanimously approved the request, which now requires the blessing of the Connecticut State Bond Commission. Barone and Guedes will have to secure the rest of the finances before tapping the CRDA funds. They also agreed to hold 10 units as affordable for 15 years.

The project’s financing plan provides for $13.7 million in conventional financing, $2 million in equity and $3 million from the CRDA.

The office building at 200 Constitution Plaza has been empty for about a decade, said CRDA executive director Michael Freimuth.

Trinity College paid $2 million for the building in 2014 for a widely touted expansion in downtown Hartford that did not come to fruition. Four years later, the building was sold to its current owner, 200 CP Holding LLC., for $2.6 million. The principal of the current owner is Aaron Berger, of Monsey, New York.

Guedes said 200 Constitution Plaza will cost $4.5 million to acquire for the currently planned project.

The target property is adjacent to the 250,000 square foot “Spectra Plaza” building, a former hotel converted into 193 apartments as part of a $23.6 million project that was completed in 2016. This project was built by New York partners Wonder Works Construction and Girona Ventures and is almost fully occupied at present.

Guedes said the apartments at 200 Constitution Plaza will be larger than those in the neighboring building. In a nod to the work-from-home trend, apartments will include enough space for an office, he said.

“Instead of using their kitchen table or their living room, they have an extra room which is an office,” Guedes said. “If they’re not using it as an office, it can be used as a den.”

The conversion plan provides for 24 one-bedroom apartments, 28 two-bedroom apartments and 49 studios. There will be lounges, a fitness room and a 150-seat auditorium will be retained. This could be used by one of the colleges and provide entertainment space for residents, Guedes said.

Guedes said the building will be gutted for renovation. 101 windows will also be replaced as the current windows are not opening. He plans to start demolition within weeks of purchase and said the new apartments will be available before the end of summer 2023.

Milton S. Rodgers