Community Investment Act (CIA)


In 2005, Senator Don Williams championed a bill to create a fund to support affordable housing, farms, open space and historic preservation in Connecticut. It is funded by a document filing fee charged on all real estate transfers.   Through CIA funding open space has been permanently preserved, smaller family farms have been able to continue operation, affordable housing has been crated and historic preservation has been accomplished throughout the State.

The beauty of how the CIA was designed is that a steady funding source was put in place to provide money to preserve and protect critical resources which are hard to finance. Almost immediately the funds drew attention, being viewed by the executive branch as a pot of gold to be raided if money were needed to close budgetary gaps. The current proposed budget includes a sweep of $15 million of CIA funds for the FY 15-16 budget and a total grab of all CIA revenue for the FY 16-17 budget.

Redevelopment of the old Swift factory on Love Lane was aided by CIA funding.

Redevelopment of the old Swift factory on Love Lane was aided by CIA funding.

CIA funding has been used here in Hartford in preserving and protecting some of our most treasured landmarks including The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, Center Church, Bushnell Park and the Charter Oak Cultural Center, to name just a few. Because of CIA funding, HPA was able to create the Parkville Historic District, enabling property owners to make use of preservation tax credits to maintain their historic properties as well as adapt and reuse existing buildings for 21st century use. One need only look to the current surge in downtown residential development to see the benefits historic preservation brings to a city’s economic health and vitality.

Without a doubt the next two years are going to be difficult for Connecticut.  Many interests are vying for fewer resources.  However the shift of emphasis to better and more accessible public transportation seems to be the priority.  No one disputes the benefit of improving the infrastructure to allow Connecticut to become sustainable however to do so while poaching from funds with an identified purpose is disappointing.  The CIA was created to support and sustain activities which directly contribute to the quality of life in this small state.  Or as pointed out by the CT Main Street Program:

While investing in a world class transportation infrastructure is important, with CIA funds we’ll end up with roads and trains to places no one wants to go.

On March 9, 11:00 at the Legislative Office Building there is to be a hearing and HPA will be there to advocate for preserving CIA funding. Voices in support are very necessary.  We will be sending out an email to our list shortly outlining what you can do to support this cause. If you are not already on our contact list, please sign up today. We will continue to keep you updated at the legislative session progresses.

Deserving Our Attention (a.k.a . Endangered)


The Alliance will announce on Saturday a list of the Ten Most Endangered Buildings in Hartford. Nothing new in preservation activities however timely for us as we exceed our reach on behalf of what matters: saving our heritage. A simple concept to draw attention to the buildings and landscapes that our Architectural Building Committee feels might be at risk from blight, neglect, an uncertain future or “might be in the way”.

I’ve been asked what the process was to create such a list.  My response –  it began with wine.  Folks were gathered to survey and consider places around the City which might be given an endangered status. It took on an aspect of an auction with committee members vying for their favorite building in distress.  A geographic review was accomplished with far greater than ten buildings at risk listed (there is always next year……). All in good fun until the list had to be reduced to ten, and then the knives came out along with opinions!  Wait, preservationists are genteel tea-sippers, right? When it comes to the passion of saving endangered buildings the gloves are off!

Included on this inaugural list will be buildings which you will recognize and know instantly.  There will be a couple surprises because you are probably be familiar with them but haven’t really taken notice.  Our objective is to shine the spotlight on historic properties which might disappear for lack of awareness.  And so, the votes have been tallied and the awards go to………….  You will have to link into our website on Saturday to learn which buildings win the dubious distinction of being most endangered.  Or better yet, join our e-mailing list and have the Top Ten delivered to right to your inbox.

Many thanks to Hartford Prints for partnering with us for our HARTBomb event and creating the event graphic. 

So many ways to skin a cat . . .

220 High Giadone rendering

During the past several weeks much has been written about 220 High Street on the Facebook nanosecond news cycle. Let’s be clear the Preservation Alliance seeks alternative preservation strategies to preserve an historic property.

We asked our resident architect and technical assistance guidance counselor, Valerio Giadone, to consider a project which incorporates the property as a component of new development. Hartford hopes to create a new neighborhood, DoNo, which draws new residents, retail and vitality across the great divide known as I-84. Our take on a High Street development brings an historic streetscape back to life with the creation of townhouse structures. Any developer seeks density to make a project cost-effective and such was the cause for variances of these parcels of land now vacant. With historic row house examples, many of which have been torn down, a design like this would be totally appropriate and in keeping with former blocks in the City. The cost to incorporate 220 into the overall development might add to the budget but by no means so extraordinary as to prevent a reuse. Rather, a preservation strategy to spark a human scale and  historic street development might be just the ticket to enliven a neighborhood renaissance.

Please bear in mind that our take on the street is one of many possibilities. We post this to suggest what might be……….. Please join us in imagining.

53 Wadsworth: An Entirely Different Approach

In February the Preservation Alliance will publish what we believe to be “The Ten Most Endangered Buildings” in Hartford.  Among the structures we cite are Hartford’s Italianates collectively.  Last week’s challenge was to prevent the City from demolishing 220 High Street.  This week I write about an altogether different project which we are working with to protect and preserve one of these fine iconic buildings.

2When Catholic Charities built their Institute for the Hispanic Family building on Wadsworth Street, their plans included demolition of the adjacent Italianate building. For a long time 53 Wadsworth Street sat vacant and abandoned.  It contributes to a streetscape of several houses along Wadsworth Street which once must have been magnificent.  HPA advocated for its preservation alongside the South Downtown NRZ, the City planning department and the State Historic Preservation Office and the Catholic Charities board decided to proceed without demolition. Nearly eight years later this building will now be renovated and returned to the neighborhood.   

Recently we were contacted by Smith, Edwards, McCoy Architects to consult on Catholic Charities’ application to generate State Historic Tax Credits.  They wanted to fill a gap in the project cost by utilizing tax credits.  Attempting to do this on their own was frustrating, the process was more cumbersome than expected.  Tyler Smith called and asked if we could help.  Absolutely was our response.  With our increasing capacity to provide technical assistance we now are engaged with the application process with the State Historic Preservation Office.  If successful our work will help to generate roughly one-third of the cost with funds raised by tax credits.

Our direction is new.  We are engaged in a unique role, one which for us is a priority activity incorporated in the HPA’s Strategic Plan. We are determined to be a robust partner in providing technical assistance to property owners in Hartford.  Not only are we available to offer advice but offer a link to a data bank of materials and contractors.  We hired an architect, Valerio Giadone, who offers professional preservation advice.

53 Wadsworth is yet another example of how “beyond repair and too expensive to save” more often than not can become preserved, saved, adapted and reused.

220 High: Reality

220 High Jan 14 2015


The publication of the blog post below has brought forth a lively and spirited discussion on social media. Further information on the fate of 220 High Street follows:


Social media has ignited and the internet has exploded with discussion regarding 220 High Street.  In writing a blog I set forth a typical reality that exists.  This has been misconstrued as surrender yet nothing is further from the HPA reality.

Let me tell you what is, has and will happen:

HPA was never contacted by the City requesting input as to how this historic area and building could be or should be developed in is drive to create DoNo. Until this latest news of its possible demise, we had been informed that the City was looking for a reuse of the building.

For some time I have been speaking publicly regarding the desire of property owners to ignore historic preservation and not following published guidelines.  We have made tremendous inroads with the City staff and the Historic Preservation Commission as they now insist that property owners consult with HPA first. Honestly it is the City which, as a major property holder, needs to lead this change in philosophy.

The next step for 220 High Street is that the request to demolish will come before the Historic Preservation Commission which we attend monthly.  In no uncertain terms we will oppose and object to the permit being granted.  So, the property is not in imminent danger from a procedural consideration and many roadblocks remain at our disposal.

I have met with the City stating that we oppose demolition.  In its haste the City did not make the preservation of 220 High Street a priority.  We seek consideration to propose a design for High Street which would include the preservation of the property.  We have been heard and will monitor.

Our position has been made, clearly recognized and acknowledged with an understanding that our opposition is unyielding. The task before us is the prevention of a demolition of 220 High Street.  Our mission speaks clearly to HPA’s role as an advocate for preservation and I am exerting that.

Blog Post Jan 15 2015

The issue cycle of social media seems to be a nanosecond. And this cycle is filled with the request for demolition, by the City, of the Italianate property located at 220 High Street. At issue seems to be how this could happen. Vacant and abandoned for greater than a decade the property has been stripped – gutted to be exact – of all internal historic fabric and now sits by itself, virtually the only property along the block, as a shell. The Preservation Alliance was contacted recently by the City, its owner of many years, to discuss options. The facts are simple, no viable project or plan to reuse the property was presented to the City. Long ago talk of moving the fireman’s Credit Union into the building did not materialize. Consideration was made to moving the building which elicited bids in excess of $ 1 million dollars. However a far greater impact on the property is the DoNo development surrounding a new ball field. As development plans for the area north of I-84 evolved since the summer a development proposal, involving multiple properties along High, Chapel and Main Streets was presented to the City. In effect the development demands that 220 High be demolished. The DoNo master plan and the specific recommendation to the Planning & Zoning Committee were presented by the City on January 8 to approve variances allowing for the redevelopment. Petitions were granted.

Developers by definition will always lead with a mantra that historic buildings are too expensive to reuse. Therefore demolition is required if a development is to go forward. Always the argument holding historic preservation hostage. Two elements blunt the argument: 1. Preservation of an historic structure is demanded within a master plan for development articulated by the City 2. Financial incentives are made available to encourage historic preservation priorities to protect our assets. Hartford talks of the importance of the historic fabric of the City but when push comes to shove demolition is often given first consideration. A reality which must change.

In a perfect world 220 High Street should have been designed into the master plan of development. Our challenge is to make historic preservation matter. In this case the desire for preservation was outdone by the priority of the creation of DoNo. As a city a profound understanding that preserving the historic fabric is a priority must enter the public discourse.

We would appreciate your thoughtful comments on how to effect such a self-awareness.