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Purchasers of Sinatro Properties Outline Plans for West Hartford Center Buildings

Filling some of the prime vacant spaces like these spots on LaSalle Road will be a priority of LaSalle Road Partners. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

LaSalle Road Partners LLC purchased three major West Hartford Center properties on Dec. 16, 2015.

Filling some of the prime vacant spaces like these spots on LaSalle Road will be a priority of LaSalle Road Partners. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Filling some of the prime vacant spaces like these spots on LaSalle Road will be a priority of LaSalle Road Partners. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

By Ronni Newton

The new owners of large chunk of West Hartford Center’s real estate plan to make improvements to their new properties, but they say their primary goal is to improve and enhance the vibrancy of the Center while maintaining its eclectic feel.

“I think West Hartford Center is one of the brightest spots in Central Connecticut. It would probably continue that way on its own but we want to enhance it and bring in more that will benefit the Center,” said Dan Joseph, principal of Corridor Ventures – one of the three businesses that formed LaSalle Road Partners and purchased three buildings from Sinatro Brothers on Dec. 16, 2015.

Joseph, fellow Corridor Ventures Principal Hagan Brown, and Rockport Investments Managing Partner Keith Guerraz shared some of their preliminary plans for the properties – quelling some of the fears and rumors that business owners and residents have expressed about a group of “out-of-towners” storming into West Hartford and making major changes.

“We’re dedicated to preserving the downtown feel of West Hartford, but also adding value,” Brown said. “We want to put our own mark on it and add value, taking the ‘dark end’ of LaSalle and brightening it up, creating more foot traffic,” he said.

Joseph said that the decision to invest in West Hartford Center has been in the works for at least eight or nine months, and it materialized over time as he and the other partners developed a trusting relationship with the Sinatros.

A partnership, and a relationship with the existing and future tenants and the West Hartford community is what they hope to achieve.

After the sale in mid December, the new owners walked the properties with Trey and Tucker Sinatro with the goal of meeting all of the existing retail and office tenants. Joseph said they were able to meet about 90 percent of them, and now that the holidays are over they hope to be even more visible.

“We want to help the existing tenants – investing in the buildings, making improvements to the façade of LaSalle, modernizing the look and feel,” Brown said. Office space will also be refreshed, he said.

Most of the visible upgrades will be focused on the LaSalle Road building because both Farmington Avenue properties have been updated more recently.

Guerraz said that another priority will be filling the vacancies both on Farmington Road and LaSalle. “[The former] Plimpton’s is a tremendous location, a great space. Herb’s and Generation Y are also great spaces. There is good square footage to work with,” he said.

Brown said that there is also 5,000 square feet of available office space above Bricco – one of the largest open spaces in West Hartford Center – that has been vacant for several years and the partners hope to lease that as well.

However, as important as it is to fill the vacancies, Brown said having the right tenant mix is key.

LaSalle Road Partners won’t look to do everything themselves and have hired area firms with which they already have relationships to handle the leasing and property management roles. RM Bradley will be the property manager, Avison Young will handle the office leasing, and Charter Realty & Development will handle the retail leasing.

“I believe we have put the pieces into place to thoughtfully and patiently improve what we have invested in,” Joseph said.

Guerraz said that it’s important to build on what has made West Hartford Center what it is –  with unique concepts that build and sustain the excitement about the area. One of the reasons that they chose Charter to handle the retail leasing is because they have experience in similar areas. While they are not opposed to having national chains as tenants, they said it would have to be stores with unique concepts like Bluemercury which will move into the former Lululemon space this spring. Attracting successful regional businesses as well as mom and pop businesses will continue to be emphasized.

“That’s the eclectic part of West Hartford Center,” said Brown. “We want to take our time, fill it with the right people to fit the strip. It could take longer because we really want the right people,” Brown said.

Joseph said there are many factors that make West Hartford unique, and they want to maintain that. “It has walkability, shopability, livability,” he said.

“West Hartford will always be eclectic. We don’t control all of the space and it won’t have one contiguous look and feel,” said Brown.

Joseph said that he and the other owners want to partner with existing as well as new tenants. “We have no plans to oust any tenants,” Joseph said. While he said that LaSalle Road Partners wants to lease space at fair market rates, “We’re not here to gouge anyone. We’re not going to shock tenants with increases,” Joseph said.

Brown said they want to get to know the existing tenants, understand their business plans, and create a “workable environment.”

“Our number one priority is calming the fears of the existing tenants,” said Guerraz. One key tenant that has already committed to remaining is Sinatro Brothers which will maintain its offices at 62 LaSalle Rd.

While phase one will include taking care of deferred maintenance, enhancing the appearance especially of the LaSalle Road property, and filling vacancies, LaSalle Road Partners will consider more investment in the future.

“In the longer term we’re looking for opportunity, but it’s not part of our phase one plan,” Guerraz said. The Center is a unique place to live, work, and play, and additional residential capacity will only enhance that, he said.

However, Brown said that the plan is not to repurpose the existing office space into residential, but instead look at open space such as the parking lot behind Bricco. “We don’t even know if it’s realistic,” he said. Joseph said that discussions with the Town will be ongoing, but “no decision has been made with respect to redevelopment.”

Although the businesses that comprise LaSalle Road Partners – Corridor Ventures, Rockport Investments, and Tecca Ventures – may not be household names, the individuals are no strangers to the area. The partners all are current residents of West Hartford or nearby towns – with the exception of Gary Fogg of Rockport who lives in New York but grew up in the area. Brown went to Morley, King Philip, and Hall, and still lives in West Hartford. Guerraz also lives in West Hartford. Tecca’s partners are David Raisner (whose DHR North Main Street LLC is currently developing the condominiums and renovating the apartments at 747 North Main St. in Bishops Corner) and Rob Webber who is also a West Hartford resident.

Joseph, Brown, and Guerraz all say they are interested in hearing what types of businesses residents would like to see in the Center. Please include your ideas in the comments section below.

On Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, the Sinatro family issued a final statement about the sale of the properties. Click here to read it.

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  • I hope you can post the ideas that are sent in about what folks would like to see in the Center. It would be very interesting.

  • I’m encouraged by the developer’s comments and will be watching to see if they hold true! I hope they can work with existing tenants like BK&Co. to stay. I do like the idea of updating the LaSalle Rd property – it could use a facelift!

  • This is positive news for the Center and WH. That area of LaSalle will benefit from some renewed attention. Interesting idea about housing behind Bricco as well. I’ve seen a few comments concerning oversaturation of eating establishments, but its still hard to find a place without a wait on a Friday night, so the demand must be there for businesses to continue opening. Imagine a suburban downtown with potentially TOO many great places to eat- what a wonderful problem to have :-)!

  • I agree there are lots of restaurants but I’ve always hoped for a casual eatery/deli that would be a great lunch spot!

  • There are lots of good suggestions – most people like the idea of independent shops, and I see lots of mentioned (on Facebook page) for a deli, bookstore, card shop, or something like that.

    Another more unique suggestion is the new trend of board game cafes. Shops that serve coffee/drinks and light food, but also offer a wide selection of board games for free-to-play and sale. Great for kids, families, gamers – a good hangout for the community. These have gotten very popular in NYC and Toronto lately and CT just one pop up in Middletown and it’s awesome. It’s the right vibe for WeHa.

  • I would love to see more artist space made and more local crafters. Maybe have studio space above in the vacant space. It would also be nice to not have any more chains restaurants.

  • I’d love to have a place that offers cooking classes! I feel like it’s the one thing we are missing in the center. Also, a yoga studio and spa would be great!

  • A bicycle shop would be great! Mostly, I would love to see business’s that can afford to stay. Blue Back Square rents are so high business’s keep leaving, and there’s no way a mom and pop business can open there. It’s the mom and pops that make the Center so quaint.

  • how about building a parking lot first? there isn’t enough parking to bring any more people to the center…

  • In September 1977 Patrissi Nursery won the bid to plant 79 “Sunburst Locusts” in West Hartford Center as part of the town’s ‘business areas beautification program’ The project was organized by the chamber of commerce and Dept. of Public Works, and the town was reimbursed for the trees under the program by landlords who agreed to the project. http://search.proquest.com/docview/545116100/6C7B46C0E12E4ACCPQ/32?accountid=39138
    It’s time to properly prune those trees.

  • I think it’s all a bunch of talk all of these small businesses can not survive in this ctr with the way your raising rents these owners are forcing tenants out. Stores that have been there for years, stores that customers have known to love. West Hartford will eventually be all restaurants. Yes, as one person said it will be interesting to see what these owners do.In another 10 yrs there will be another turn over of stores and small businesses. It’s all about the money!

  • Amen Debbie…. There are a lot of reasons for the demise of quality retail in the center, but it all comes down to 1) high rents, 2) low foot traffic in stores… Until these are reversed, retail is dead in WHC…and don’t hold your breath…these new owners did not pay all that money purchasing these properties to lower the rents to fill empty retail spots…… PT Barnum said ” there’s a sucker born every minute”
    The Sinatro’s are laughing all the way to the bank!

  • Too many restaurants, but what is missing is a nice place to have breakfast. I have been going to Simsbury for years to the Harvest Cafe and Bakery. This is the only type of restaurant that is missing in Center. The Center has lost its charm that was here when we moved here 27 years ago. Gone are the stores that had individuality. I would like to see a store that sells affordable clothing for a variety of sizes, a Plimpton type store with cards and supplies but more affordable. I really don’t like going to Staples for supplies and CVS for cards. A really gooooood bakery of long ago. I know a book store is a dream.

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