At the grand opening of One Park in West Hartford, the development was dedicated to Martin Kenny, the founder of Lexington Partners – who had the vision for the redevelopment of the former Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chambery congregation property but who died suddenly last month.
By Ronni Newton
More than a decade ago, the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chambery – who have occupied a bucolic 22-acre parcel of land at the corner of Park Road and Prospect Avenue in West Hartford since 1898 – determined they lacked a safety net and needed to downsize. They decided to seek development proposals for an “adaptive reuse of the property” that would preserve its historical elements and ensure a place for at least some of the Sisters to live.
The transformative development of the Olmstead-designed property, now called One Park, was officially unveiled in a grand opening ceremony on Oct. 24, bringing 292 residential units – studio, one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments – to West Hartford, including 30 that have been set aside as affordable housing for those earning up to 80% of the area median income.
The project was dedicated to the late Martin “Marty” Kenny, founder of Lexington Partners, who passed away unexpectedly in September. Kenny’s vision for the redevelopment of the property was an inspiration for the project, and he was known for not only his creativity but also his respect for history – including incorporating the chapel’s rose window into the One Park logo.
Kenny’s mark – literally his signature – is on the signage that was unveiled Tuesday above the main entrance to the building at a ceremony attended by well over 100 people, including Kenny’s wife, Angela, many other members of Kenny’s family, and development partners and stakeholders.
Sister Sally Hodgdon, CSJ, of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chambery, offered a benediction and blessed the building with holy water, asking that the apartments be “spaces of welcome, peace, shelter comfort, laughter, love, and community building.”
Lexington Partners President and CEO Chris Reilly and Lexington Partners Vice President Patrick Kenny (Marty Kenny’s son), were among the speakers at the grand opening celebration. West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor, Chamber of Commerce Development and Programs Director Kate Kobs, and Park Road Association Co-President Johnny Paindiris also participated in the ceremony, after which attendees had a chance to tour several units.
“This project has been many years in the making,” Patrick Kenny said. “I believe the first time we started exploring this project was in 2017. Marty had a vision for this property and site that has become a reality,” he said. “To unite a historic convent building with the new construction of this larger building in a way that tastefully pays homage to the original use of the property is a great accomplishment. This is a special place that the neighborhood and the Town of West Hartford can be proud of.”
The first phase of One Park – 92 units in the original building – began leasing in April, while the 200 units in the newly-constructed portion began leasing about two weeks ago. All feature identical high-end finishes and access to the development’s multiple amenities, which include lobbies with seating, a pool, pool house, and dog park.
The iconic chapel is in the process of being repurposed as community space, with a fitness center in the basement area and two pickleball courts on the main level. A rooftop deck with several fireplaces is also in the process of being completed, and all amenities – other than garage parking – are available at no additional cost to residents.
The original marble stairs remain in the foyer of the north entrance, and other historical details that remain in the renovated portion of the property include some of the doors and woodwork. The shapes of the windows remain intact – including the Palladian and bay windows – although the windows themselves are new and energy efficient. An old smokestack and a small outbuilding have been incorporated into the pool house, and the chapel retains the rose window as well as several other stained glass windows.
Marty Kenny and his longtime associate, Alan Lazowski, formed Lex-Laz, LLC, which also partnered with Corridor Ventures, closed on the property in June 2021, announcing plans to complete it by the summer of 2023 – a target that was essentially achieved despite what originally was slated to be a $70 million redevelopment ultimately becoming a roughly $95 million investment.
The property was completely tax-exempt while it was owned by the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chambery, and the West Hartford Town Council in 2020 voted to approve its first-ever tax stabilization plan for the developers to allow the project, which unsuccessfully applied for historical tax credits, to finally move forward. The clock has been ticking on the sliding-scale tax abatement schedule – which applies to the real property but not the personal property or automobiles of residents – for several years.
From the time the Sisters first sought to sell the property, there have been many twists and turns and stops and starts in the process, and Sister Hodgsdon said at the ceremony that they are so pleased with the results, and the 36-room “west wing” and dedicated courtyard – a condominium property that the Sisters still own and where roughly 22 or 23 Sisters currently reside in a combination of independent and assisted living units. A new chapel constructed for the Sisters incorporates stained glass from the original chapel.
“We knew as the sisters, as our numbers became fewer and fewer, and as life changed for women so that they could serve the church and the people of God in different ways than being sisters, that we would not need this very large property for very long,” Hodgdon said. She said ultimately, taking the time and working with Marty Kenny and the team, “is really what God wanted for us in the end.”
There is already a great relationship between the Sisters and the residents of the One Park apartments, Hodgdon said.
“They have purposely, thoughtfully, and intentionally created a living space that creates additional access for our residents while maintaining the beauty and the history of the building they are developing,” Kobs said, thanking the developers for their investment.
“It’s very, very exciting,” Paindiris said, in his capacity not only as the Park Road Association co-president, but also as the owner of Effie’s Place restaurant just west of the development. “I think aside from the Sisters, I have been waiting for this development just as long, or just about as long as they have, so it’s great to see this finally here and open. … I think that Lexington Partners couldn’t find a better place to put this development in West Hartford,” he said, touting everything that Park Road has to offer within walking distance.
Cantor said it was great to see this dream become a reality, a dream that began about 10 years ago when the Sisters realized that could no longer utilize the entire property. “It took, as Patrick said, so many people’s input into this process,” she said.
“We knew that there were some significant challenges – to preserve the historic chapel, to preserve the historic façade, to keep the green space, the Olmstead-designed space. Those are really meaningful to the community,” Cantor said.
“It was Marty’s passion … his love of family, his love for this area and this region, his commitment,” Cantor said. She added that Kenny was so committed to this project because of the commitment he had also made to the Sisters, to ensure that they could continue to be part of the neighborhood.
“Many people know the sisters have contributed to our community in so many ways, either being teachers or social workers. They’ve made the lives of our community members better, and we are so grateful. And they now have a quiet space to live, and enjoy, and bond and to really enjoy the many amenities on Park Road,” Cantor said.
Updates to Prospect Plaza, Cantor added, are a direct result of the influx of residents that One Park will bring. That strip shopping center, now 95% leased, has a new Floor & Decor store, Planet Fitness, and there will be a new building for a Chipotle with a drive-through, recently approved by the Town Council, built in the parking area.
“This is our gateway,” Cantor said, located right across the street from Hartford, “and this connects the two communities very, very profoundly.”
Before unveiling the sign with Kenny’s signature, Reilly shared his thoughts about his friend and longtime business partner. “Marty Kenny mattered. We’re all here today to acknowledge and celebrate his crowning professional achievement.” He brought his passion to his work, and he worked for years to bring this vision to One Park, which will live on, Reilly said.
According to Reilly, 90% of the 92 units in the renovated building have now been leased, and 30% of the first phase of the new construction – 100 of those 200 units – are currently occupied. Overall, he said said the property is about 35% leased, adding that all of the 30 affordable units are occupied.
There are 90 studio apartments, 157 one-bedroom units (three with lofts and 24 with dens), 41 two-bedroom units, and four three-bedroom units at One Park. Floor plans vary, and for more information about the property, including rental rates which range from $1,600 for a studio to roughly $4,300 for a two-bedroom and $5,000 for one of the three-bedroom units, visit the website.
Some additional background
Back in January 2016, the Council unanimously approved a Special Development District for the Arcadia Crossing project, to be developed by Center Development Corporation at that same site. Arcadia Crossing was to include 310 apartment units, 509 parking spaces including a 270-space parking garage, and a variety of common area amenities as well as a “west wing” – a 36-bedroom complex and other facilities for the Sisters of Saint Joseph – who would continue to own that property and live there for as long as they like.
Center Development Corporation was unable to secure financing for Arcadia Crossing, and the project was not built, but the zoning changes that were approved for that project remained in effect.
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