Originally from the Hartford Courant | December 5th, 2016
By Jordan Ortero Sisson
Town officials approved a blueprint for the proposed development at the site of The Hartford's former Simsbury office complex.
The zoning commission on Monday authorized New Jersey development firm The Silverman Group to move forward with crafting a more detailed site plan, after unanimously approving a master site plan for the development at 200 Hopmeadow St.
Director of Planning and Community Development James Rabbitt explained that the approved master plan lays out the groundwork for the proposed project.
"The evaluation of any proposed site plan will be predicated with compliance on the master plan," Rabbitt said.
The development, The Ridge at Talcott Mountain, was designed using The Hartford-Simsbury Form-Based Code. The document was adopted by the town in collaboration with The Hartford in August 2014.
Form-based code provides a developer with the town's expectations in the scope of use. The code's purpose, according to the 63-page document, is to "implement a long-term, sustainable redevelopment strategy for the Hartford site."
A group of residents from abutting condominium complex Riverwalk Drive addressed the commission and cited concerns of preserving the views of the ridge and Heublein Tower, unsustainable traffic and property setbacks.
Commission members explained that those concerns would have had to been addressed during the creation of the code, and the commission could only decide whether the proposal complied with the code as written.
T.J. Donohue, the attorney representing The Silverman Group, said the developer "intends to give Riverwalk every consideration and courtesy" to address concerns.
The Silverman Group plans to build 280 residential units, to include several townhouse units with various layouts and facades, as well as four luxury apartment buildings with elevators, a clubhouse, and a 120-bed assisted living facility.
The proposal also details a combined 11,600 square feet of retail and a walking and bike trail that would connect to the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail.
The developers say the project "replaces an obsolete suburban corporate office asset that no longer is viable with a master-planned, mixed-use community."
About 46 percent of the 40-acre property will remain open space, according to the plan.
The anticipated timeline for the project details groundbreaking in June and completion in January 2018.
The 172-acre property was sold for $8.52 million in late December, including 641,000 square feet of building space and the 40 acres of farmland to the north.
The Silverman Group filed an application for demolition at the site with the conservation commission in February and the buildings were torn down in May.
Earlier this year, Thomas Cooke, town director of administrative services, estimated that the town would lose about $1.5 million from the demolition and removal of personal property, but "conservative estimates of revenue from other developments in town, including construction planned by the Silverman Group, is likely to offset this loss in a couple of years."
The Silverman Group announced last summer that it was proposing commercial and residential development at the site.
The Silverman Group is not new to Greater Hartford. It owned the 18-story office tower at 100 Pearl St. in Hartford before selling it in March 2015 for $36.85 million to Shelbourne Global Solutions LLC.
Overall, the firm owns and manages more than 6 million square feet of office, industrial, retail and aviation properties, as well as 5,000 multifamily units throughout the country, according to figures released this summer.