The Hartford Courant
January 9, 2015
HARTFORD — The first downtown apartments in the former office tower at 777 Main St. will be ready in April — and the project’s developer said the $85 million conversion could earn the highest rating for energy efficiency and conservation.
One big reason developer Bruce R. Becker is optimistic about securing a platinum rating for the building was delivered in Thursday morning’s bone-chilling weather: a 400-kilowatt fuel cell that will provide the 26-story tower with most of its own power.
“In terms of the housing development industry,” Becker said, “it’s as close as we get to a lunar landing having that fuel cell set down here in Hartford.”
A fuel cell operates almost like a battery, combining hydrogen and oxygen to give off electricity, heat and water. The hydrogen comes from natural gas, but the fuel cell yields more energy from it than natural-gas powered energy systems.
The thermal energy will be used to help heat the building, cutting down on use of fossil fuels, Becker said.
The $3 million fuel cell, provided by Doosan Co. in South Windsor, took only three minutes to hoist by crane from a flatbed truck to a waiting concrete pad outside the tower which will contain 285 apartments. Securing it took much longer — nearly 90 minutes — and was understandable: the fuel cell weighs 30 tons.
The platinum designation is part of a rating system administered by the U.S. Green Building Council that awards buildings that incorporate recycled materials, energy efficiency, water conservation, improved indoor air quality and other environmental measures in their design.
One of those measures was evident in the hallway outside three model rentals on the 25th floor shown by Becker Thursday after the fuel cell — similar to one at Becker’s 360 State Street apartment development in New Haven — was secured in place.
Nine-foot-high “storm windows” that will insulate against the cold in the winter and heat in the summer have arrived for installation. They will be attached on the interior side of each of the building’s 1,900 windows, at a cost of $1 million.
The views, especially on the top floors, are expected to be a prime selling point and will also command the highest rents.
Studios range in size from 514 to 556 square feet, with monthly rents ranging from $1,230 to $1,565. One bedrooms are 693 to 825 square feet, with rents from $1,500 to $1,985. Two bedrooms are 1,105 to 1,141 square feet, running from $1,910 to $2,360 a month.
The project includes 59 apartments with rents pegged to low- and moderate-income tenants who meet income guidelines. Tenants would pay $759 for studios and $822 for one bedrooms.
Rents do not include a $90 monthly parking fee in the attached garage.
Becker’s is one of the five apartment projects underway downtown that will add 700 rentals downtown this year. One of them, The Grand on Ann, on Ann Uccello Street, is completed and its first tenants have moved in to the 26-unit former Masonic Hall.
Financing for 777 Main includes $17.7 million in state taxpayer funds from the Capital Region Development Authority. The authority backing the apartment development to boost downtown vitality beyond the workweek
At 777 Main, the first apartments to be completed will be on the upper floors, with work progressing to the lower floors. Becker expects the conversion to be finished this summer, with leasing taking up to two years.
David Murray, a regional coordinator for the Winn Cos., which is marketing the units for Becker, said there have been about 100 inquiries since marketing began late last year.
The interest has come from a mixture of new college graduates taking jobs at Aetna, CIGNA and other insurers; young professionals now living in surrounding suburbs and a few “emptynesters,” Becker said.
Some of the inquiries, Becker said, have come from existing downtown residents, who want a studio apartment, a rental category now in short supply.
Even so, Becker said he doesn’t believe 777 Main will “cannibalize” the downtown market.
“Our assumption here is that we will be drawing people who will be new to Hartford,” Becker said. For full article.