Massive structural beams composed of compressed wood would be visible on the building’s ground floors, highlighting the sustainable material. (Amenta Emma rendering)
A developer presented plans for a high-end apartment complex built with compressed wood “mass timber” for a parcel in the Bushnell South area of Hartford, Conn., on June 15 to upgrade both the area’s housing stock and environmental bona fides.
Laminated wood beams would form the skeleton of the new buildings, designed by Anthony Amenta on behalf of the Michaels Organization. The developer, which has its East Coast headquarters in Camden, N.J., was chosen by Connecticut’s Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA) last year to develop a parcel across from the State Capitol Building, near The Bushnell theater in Hartford.
The $100 million project would result in 233 apartments in two newly built mid-rise buildings designed “to push the envelope on the marketplace,” CRDA Director Michael Freimuth said in speaking to the Connecticut Post.
Mass timber technology allows for the buildings to rise to eight stories, instead of the five-story limit for traditional “stick-built” construction.
Massive structural beams composed of compressed wood would be visible on the building’s ground floors, highlighting the sustainable material. The project’s developer is currently completing preliminary work with plans to refine plans over the summer, said Geoff Lewis, director of development for the Michaels Organization.
Amenta told the Post that mass timber would allow for not only taller buildings, but greener finishes and more housing.
“For this particular site, we wanted to see if we could do something different, particularly on the key corner there across from The Bushnell,” he explained. “We spent a good amount of time looking at mass timber… and what this means is the entire structure of a building of this type could be made of a renewable resource.”
The proposed complex is part of a major project designed to create a new neighborhood south of Hartford’s downtown. Mayor Luke Bronin told the City Council in May that public subsidies in the form of tax-fixing agreements would be needed to complete the redevelopment.
New Haven is the home of Connecticut’s first mass timber project, a 69-unit apartment complex now under construction on Dixwell Avenue. That complex also is said to be the first affordable housing project in the United States to use the environmentally friendly material.
More developers are choosing mass timber as the technology evolves and customers demand sustainability, Amenta said.
“I do believe [mass timber] will be taking over a good deal of the marketplace, because [it] allows the beauty and aesthetics of wood to be shown within some of the unit types,” he elaborated, adding that structures utilizing the timber “have a very rapid construction time.”
Bringing Vibrancy Back to Bushnell South
Michaels, a national leader in residential real estate, will redevelop a now mostly unused three-acre surface parking lot current surface parking lot along Capitol Avenue east of the renovated State Office building.
The development will include not only new housing, but green spaces and commercial and retail space as well.
“This important neighborhood has so much potential, and we are excited to work with [Hartford] and the CRDA to transform it into an area where people can live, work, shop and play,” said Jay Russo, Michaels’ vice president of development.
Hopes are that the new development will help transform Bushnell South into a bustling residential and commercial area, connecting both sides of the neighborhood currently being divided by the vacant parking lots, and marking Bushnell Park as the center of the city.
Michaels was awarded the development project through a competitive bidding process and was ultimately chosen for its strong understanding of public financing and urban development strategies.
“The Bushnell South plan is critical for not only the State Capital and the city, but also for the neighborhood,” explained Mike Freimuth, CRDA’s executive director. “Having a national developer such as Michaels investing in the project demonstrates that all the development that has occurred over the last 10 years has led towards Hartford realizing its full potential as a major city. CRDA is looking forward to working with Michaels. It has experience with public private urban development projects and understands the unique strategies, problems and consequences that come with such projects.”
The Michaels Company said in a news release on its website that it plans to work closely with surrounding neighborhoods and the various stakeholders throughout the development process.