We were recently notified of a potential demolition of an historic house located on Capitol Avenue. In following up we discovered that the owner of the property had purchased it as a preventive strategy to protect its substantial interests next door. We sought a meeting to discuss opportunities and found that the owner was completely frustrated with trying to sell the property, for 5 years! Seems that no one wanted to undertake a rehabilitation which would be expensive and ultimately cost more than the property would be worth. Now long-abandoned and home to squatters the owner has grown concerned and wants to be rid of the costly headache. One can be sympathetic, we know from great experience that often the cost to rejuvenate a property may exceed its investment. However, we offered to explore how to become the white knight. With experience in real estate development, finance, historic renovation technical assistance and a familiarity of market trends we determined to see what we could do.
Informing the owner that financial resources exist to mitigate the rehabilitation cost and our contribution of in-kind development and architectural services could make the project feasible for a moderate-income homeowner. Hartford needs community-based models of smaller properties to help spark more neighborhood revitalization step-by-step. We proceeded to draw plans, assemble a development budget and make inquiries into resources to successfully model a preservation project of note. ( I failed to mention that the boarded up property greets motorists who take the exit from I-84 to reach the Capitol and/or the State Armory. Welcome to Hartford!) A perfect teaching model of how to utilize the unique Homeowner Tax Credit Program offered by the State Historic Preservation Office would be presented to the public as we bring a house back to life.
So, the puzzle? Although we have made good progress to assemble the project the property owner has gone silent. Attempts to discuss how a purchase might be organized have met with a vague response. Two of which have us scratching our heads: 1. We are anxious to have the project move forward more rapidly (remember the property has been owned for 5 years and in serious decline during that period) and 2. What happens, after renovation, regardless of it being owner-occupied, and roughly $400, 000 is spent on the project, that it falls into ruin once again? Sadly without further information we are coming to the belief that the owner of the property simply wants to demolish the building. As I often say “don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up”.
At a time when the City of Hartford sorely needs community economic development and to have properties on the tax rolls. The historic fabric of the City needs to encourage cost-effective models of rehabilitation and the State of Connecticut offers very robust financial incentives to accomplish the work. We are both disappointed and honestly feeling as if the owner has not engaged with us in a good faith conversation. Historic preservation matters in Hartford, economic development matter more so we only wish that or time and talent has not gone to waste.