Trumbull Place, located at 242 Trumbull St. in Hartford, has been acquired by Northland Investment Corp.

Another pillar in Gov. John G. Rowland’s “Six Pillars of Progress” is about to be erected, as the developers of the Town Square project recently acquired Trumbull Place, removing an obstacle to their construction and reinforcing their commitment to Hartford.

Northland Investment Corp., a privately held real estate investment, management and development company, purchased the facility – a 311,336-square-foot, Class A office and retail complex in Hartford – for an undisclosed amount. In fiscal year 2002, the property was valued by the city at $8.9 million. The acquisition of Trumbull Place increases Northland’s Hartford portfolio to 1.6 million square feet.

Trumbull Place, formerly owned by Travelers Casualty and Surety Co., consists of a mixed-use complex located in the heart of downtown Hartford that was renovated in 1987 to house affiliates of Aetna Insurance. The project also involved the revitalization of the Pratt Street retail corridor. Citigroup Investments, American Express and UBS AG anchor Trumbull Place, which is located at 242 Trumbull St.

Lawrence R. Gottesdiener, Northland’s chairman and chief executive officer, said of his company’s high-profile redevelopment of the Hartford Civic Center Mall, “Trumbull Place will benefit from Northland’s $150 million Town Square development across the street, scheduled to break ground later this year. The upscale retail stores and attractive storefronts of Trumbull Place will be a perfect complement to the vibrant retail and active streetscapes of Town Square.”

Cushman & Wakefield of Massachusetts served as the broker in the sale, and Webster Bank provided financing. “We are pleased to have arranged the sale of Trumbull Place to Northland Investment Corp., a commercial leader in Hartford [which] has made an unflagging commitment to the city,” said Richard F. Herlihy, senior director of Cushman & Wakefield.

‘Very Bullish’

Peter Standish, senior vice president and head of acquisitions and development at Northland, explained that the Town Square development is the new names for what was formerly the Civic Center Mall.

“The site is the Civic Center Mall, which wraps around the [Hartford Civic Center], and involves the redevelopment of the site to include a high-rise residential tower with 256 units,” said Standish. He noted that the development will also include 71,000 square feet of retail space, with a sports club and office space as well.

Two large parking garages totaling 816 parking spaces will be constructed as well. One of the garages will be dedicated for the residents of the tower, while the other will be open to the public.

“This was one of the projects sponsored under [Rowland’s] ‘Six Pillars of Progress’ plan and is getting a significant investment from the state,” said Standish, adding that the state’s pledge to the Town Square development is $28 million.

In 1998, Rowland promoted the “Six Pillars of Progress” plan to redevelop downtown Hartford. The six pillars were a rejuvenated civic center, a highly developed waterfront, a downtown higher education center, a convention center and sports megaplex, the demolition or redevelopment of vacant buildings and the creation of downtown housing units and an increase in the number of well-located and inexpensive parking spaces.

Developers are looking to break ground on the project by the end of this year, and hope to have the project completed by February of 2006.

“The Town Square will be something completely different [from the Civic Center Mall],” said Standish. “The concept is that we want to draw new residents to the downtown area. That’s the catalyst for the revitalization of downtown. Secondly, we want to reenergize the streets and take the retail space that is currently there and transform it and put it on the streets.”

All of the retail space will be located along the street, and all entrances will be made from the street.

“There will be very active sidewalks, lot of glass, very attractive signage – it will be active, energetic and dynamic, as opposed to what’s currently there, which is a bunker. What’s there now was never really was successful, and it’s not working the way it’s currently conceived,” said Standish.

Along Trumbull and Asylum streets will be street-front retail, and the residential tower will stand at the corner of the two streets. The tower will stand tall at 36 floors, with the bottom two floors dedicated as retail space with residential space for the rest.

“When we originally conceived this project we did an extensive market survey and study,” said Standish, who noted that there has been interest in the development and that there shouldn’t be a problem filling the space.

Northland owns several residential properties in the city, and Standish believes his group has a “good handle” on the apartment market.

Despite the fact that Trumbull Place is located directly across the street from the Town Square development, and that the buildings are connected by a bridge, Standish noted that the purchase of Trumbull Place wasn’t necessarily a part of the whole project.

“The purchase of Trumbull Place was really a stand-alone investment,” he said. “There is a sky-bridge that attaches it to Town Square, so the purchase has given us ownership of the bridge.” He remarked that the bridge had been something of an obstacle for the developers because it directly connects the two properties.

“Acquiring Trumbull Place is really a demonstration of our tremendous commitment to the city of Hartford. We have a very bullish, long-term view of the city,” said Standish. Northland has acquired all of the buildings it owns in Hartford within the last four years.

“If anything this should attest to our commitment to the city,” he said. “We’ve been investing in Hartford for the last four years.”

Northland, which is a national development firm, chose Hartford as an investment hub for several reasons. Standish cited its location near both Boston and New York City, and the fact that its employee base is currently very strong.

“Hartford’s relative cost compared to other top-tier New England markets like Boston and Fairfield County is very attractive. It’s in our backyard. It’s New England, which is very attractive,” he said. “The multifamily market in New England is very strong right now.”

Northland became the first national investment and development company to pursue real estate investment opportunities in Hartford with its 1996 acquisition of Corporate Place just outside of Hartford. Since that time, the firm has made a series of strategic acquisitions in Connecticut totaling 3 million square feet and valued at $250 million. Current Connecticut holdings include: CityPlace II, Metro Center, Bigelow Commons, The Pavilions, Civic Center Mall and The Crosthwaite Building.

Founded in 1970, Northland Investment Corp. specializes in the acquisition, development, operation and long-term ownership of commercial, retail and multifamily real estate throughout the United States. Northland owns a $1 billion diversified portfolio comprised of more than 13 million square feet of real estate overall, with major concentrations in New England and along the southern tier of the United States.