Here are the buildings that could be part of Hartford’s ambitious Parkville Arts & Innovation District

·8 min read

An ambitious $250 million plan to raise Hartford’s profile as a hub for digital innovation and advanced manufacturing is getting down to street level, building-by-building, as the city seeks state funding to boost its vision for the Parkville Arts & Innovation District.

A 500-plus page proposal seeking nearly $50 million from the state’s innovation corridor grant program details plans for a dozen properties in the heart of Parkville, once a hub of manufacturing turning out bicycles, typewriters and automobiles.

The linchpin of the city’s plan is creating innovation space to form startups while providing space for them to grow and creating jobs at all skill levels.

“Advanced manufacturing, much like health care and insurance, is increasingly driven by digital technology,” Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said. “We want young people to know that. We want young people to see it. We want to connect these young people to these tech jobs in this core industry in our community.”

While the plan rests heavily on encouraging innovation, it also seeks to create a walkable neighborhood with new housing and after-hours dining and entertainment, all aimed at revitalizing a long impoverished area of the city.

The push for the district comes from a coalition of the city, public and private funding agencies, nonprofits, colleges and private sector employers.

New Britain-based Stanley Black & Decker, the tool and equipment storage maker, has helped lead the effort, contributing $5 million to attract another $20 million from a private investor.

Redevelopment efforts in Parkville are underway, but achieving the broader vision will depend heavily on winning the state grant. Decisions are expected in late spring.

If successful, Bartholomew Street — considered the “spine” of the new district — could see a building that once turned out steel tubing for Columbia bicycles become co-working and incubator space fostering digital technology.

Another structure — a long-abandoned boiler building that once supplied neighborhood manufacturers — would become a center for workforce training.

And there would be new construction: apartments and a 352-space parking garage on a parking lot near the corner of Bartholomew Avenue and Park Street. The garage would help ease a lack of parking options.

‘It’s something big and bad’

At the southern end of Bartholomew, entrepreneur and developer Bob Hussain and his family hope the historic but decaying Hanson-Whitney Co. factory will become an important cog in the new district.

Hussain, a former pharmacist from Ridgefield, has been buying and rehabilitating blighted residential and mixed-use structures in Hartford for nearly two decades. He bought the factory building last year in a tax deed sale, and a renovation would be his largest in the city.

Visible from I-84, the 90,000-square-foot structure was on the city’s list of most troubled buildings.

The structure and property were used for illegal dumping, with between 80 to 100 dumpsters of trash already removed from the site, Hussain said. Stolen cars turned up there, some of them having been torched, he said.

The city considers the factory the right fit for small and mid-size companies that want to expand. The property also is adjacent to former metal scrapyard acquired by the city last year, where an industrial park for advanced manufacturing could be built.

Hussain sees beyond the broken windows, rotting floorboards and leaks from the ceiling to the strong underlying structure. During a tour, there is the sound of dripping water as snow melts off the roof.

“It’s something big and bad,” Hussain said. “Not bad-bad. This is a beautiful building. It doesn’t look that way now, but it is beautiful.”

Cutting-edge co-working space

Hartford’s plans for Parkville have attracted the attention of DISTRICT, a cutting-edge co-working and digital incubation space in New Haven.

If state funding is secured, DISTRICT would lead the redevelopment of the factory that once produced steel bicycle tubing and now is owned by a specialty packaging and boxing company.

David Salinas, DISTRICT’s founder, said the idea behind DISTRICT for competing with tech giants in Silicon Valley means more than offering money to attract the best talent.

“So then how do you present the amenities that they do?” Salinas said. “How do you present the food options that they do? The only way to do that is in a shared, communal environment of like-minded people. That is key.”

Salinas said the plans for Parkville have many of the right components, including varied ways of getting around: highway, CTfastrak, bus, bicycle and by foot.

The city has negotiated an option to purchase the building for $1.2 million, contingent on winning the grant.

“The ecosystem that is being designed and presented in this area of Parkville is something that we are excited about,” Salinas said. “We can be a big part of it.”

Jobs that pay a living wage

The plans for the district also include proposals for housing targeted to low- and moderate-income individuals and families, plus workforce development programs.

Hands On Hartford, a social services nonprofit that moved to Bartholomew Street six years ago, would be involved in two projects: construction of new affordable rental units and creation of job training programs and collaborative workspace.

Barbara A. Shaw, the nonprofit’s executive director, said the population served by Hands on Hartford needs “safe affordable homes, access to transportation, and the training and skills to get jobs that pay a living wage.”

“We want them to have the opportunity to have successful careers, and this development gives us the opportunity to be part of a long-term solution to the economic challenges faced by too many of our neighbors,” Shaw said.

Here is a property-by-property look at what is proposed for the Parkville Arts & Innovation District:

1. 17-35 Bartholomew Ave.

Owner: Carlos A. Mouta

Developers: Carlos A. Mouta/Hands On Hartford/Hartford Parking Authority

Previous use: Surface Parking Lot

Planned use: A five-story, 57-unit apartment building with storefront space on the ground level would replace the parking lot. Of the total units, 17 will be “affordable,: with five units reserved for people transitioning from homelessness. The housing would be wrapped around a 352-space parking garage, designed with a pedestrian bridge linking it to the nearby CTfastrak station.

Total project cost: Apartments: $14 million ( Innovation grant funds: $6 million). Parking garage, $14 million (Innovation grant funds: $6.5 million).

Completion: Apartments, fall of 2024; parking garage in winter of 2025

Powerhouse Building

Address: 45 Bartholomew Ave.

Year built: 1912

Owner/developer: Hands On Hartford Inc.

Previous use: Boiler house for Hartford Rubber Works Co.; Billboard for Spaghetti Warehouse restaurant.

Planned use: A “collaborative center” of 33,200 square feet to be called “The Powerhouse,” which would develop digital and innovation skills. Project is in partnership with Girls for Technology, Launc[H] and Trinity College.

Total project cost: $17.2 million

Innovation grant funds: $6.3 million

Completion: Winter 2024

Champlin-Packrite Co. Building

Address: 81 Bartholomew Ave.

Year built: 1893-1895

Owner: Champlin-Packrite Co.

Developer: DISTRICT Parkville

Current use: Manufacturing of specialized boxes, boxes and pallets

Planned use: “The Factory” would create three areas in an 80,000-square-foot space: an area for companies to develop 4.0 technologies for advanced manufacturing; small and mid-size companies would learn how to integrate technologies in space anchored by the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology; and a co-working space would be focused on innovation but open to all.

Total project cost: $25 million

Innovation grant funds: $7 million

Completion: Winter 2024

Whitney Manufacturing Co.

Address: 237 Hamilton St.

Year built: 1906-1941

Owner/developer: Carlos A. Mouta

Previous Use: Originally, the factory made hand milling machines and other parts to supply Parkville’s manufacturers. Later, it was partly converted into offices.

Planned use: The 112,000-square-foot complex would be converted into 80,000 square feet for startups; short-term, co-living space for start-up visitors; 189 mixed-income apartments; restaurants and a beer garden.

Total project cost: $94 million

Innovation Grant Funding: $0

Completion: Summer 2023 (environmental clean-up has started.)

Hanson-Whitney Co. factory

Address: 169 Bartholomew Ave.

Year built: 1919

Owner/developer: RGH Bartholomew LLC

Previous use: Machinery manufacturing

Planned use: Expansion space for small and medium-size businesses encompassing 89,000 square feet.

Total project cost: $28.4 million

Innovation grant funding: $4.2 million

Completion: Spring 2025

Aerospace Metals Inc.

Address: 173 Bartholomew Ave., 490-500 Flatbush Ave.

Owner: city of Hartford

Previous use: metal scrap yard

Planned use: A 4.0 industrial park targeting advanced manufacturing firms with 335,000 square feet of space in single-story buildings. An environmental clean-up would prepare the property for future development.

Total project cost: (environmental clean-up): $15.5 million

Innovation grant funds: $12 million

Completion Date: Spring 2025

Parkville Market

Address: 1390-1400 Park St. and 1420 Park St.

Year built: 1965

Owner/developer: Carlos A. Mouta

Planned Use: The Parkville Market food hall is expanding into a second phase including entertainment and event space. A craft brewery and outdoor patio is planned at 1420 Park St.

Total project: $4.6 million

Innovation grant funding: $0

Completion: Spring 2023

Hartford Rubber Works Co. Building

Address: 1429 Park St.

Year built: 1900

Owner/developer: 1429 Park Street LLC

Planned use: Already the location of entrepreneurial incubator reSet, a brewery and loft apartments, the building needs renovations and improvements to make a statement as the “gateway” to the arts and innovation district.

Total project cost: $1 million

Innovation grant funds: $1 million

Completion: Fall 2022

Real Art Ways

Address: 56 Arbor St.

Year built: 1917

Owner/developer: Real Art Ways

Planned use: Real Art Ways is planning a significant expansion, including the addition of three movie screens. dedicated space for the performing arts and a new cafe.

Total project cost: $19.6 million

Innovation grant funds: $2.8 million

Completion: Fall 2023

SOURCES: Parkville Arts & Innovation District innovation corridor application; Hartford assessor cards; Parkville Historic District survey, 2015.

Kenneth R. Gosselin can be reached at