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Groundbreaking Marks New Phase of DoNo Project
The dirt and the emotions flew a bit higher than usual at the Thursday groundbreaking for the first phase of Hartford’s Downtown North redevelopment project, a $250 million plan for a mix of housing and retail that has faced a series of major setbacks in its 15-year history.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever throw a more satisfying shovelful of dirt than this one after the battle we fought to get here,” Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said. “Getting to this official groundbreaking has been a long road.”
Since it was first conceived as a hub to unite Hartford’s north end and downtown, the project has been mired in legal battles and development missteps. The city fired the first developers hired to build the project, Centerplan Construction Co. and DoNo Hartford LLC, after they finished adjacent Dunkin’ Donuts Park in 2017. The stadium project came in late and over budget and the developers were also accused of doing shoddy work and failing to pay subcontractors.
Stamford-based developer Randy Salvatore, known statewide for his boutique hotel projects, was chosen to take on Downtown North in March of this year and he started construction on the first phase in late September.
“We will rebuild these vacant parking lots into a walkable and inviting place,” Salvatore said at the groundbreaking, describing the first phase as a vibrant mix of housing, entertainment and retail.
The noise of heavy equipment nearly drowned out the groundbreaking speakers at times as workers continued excavation on part of the property for a three-story parking garage as part of phase one. A several-story pile of dirt sat at the other end of the site, set to make way for the housing and retail space.
A $50 million build, phase one consists of 270 apartments in buildings at the corner of Main and Trumbull streets with restaurant and retail space, along with the 330-space garage. Salvatore said the project will be completed in 18 months.
“I promise I will not let you or your great city and its residents down,” Salvatore told the crowd of city and state officials at the groundbreaking. “You’ve created a development friendly environment.”