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Condo Project: A Good Fit
Posted: Aug 28, 2006
EDITORIALS, The Hartford Courant


Like all other downtown Hartford developers, Michael Grunberg, whose Manhattan firm Grunberg Realty recently bought the Bank of America building at 777 Main St., surely reads the surveys that say the demand for condominiums is red hot - particularly among empty-nesters.

What makes his idea of turning several of the office tower's upper floors into condominium units all the more appealing is that the number of apartments he proposes - 50 to 60 - is small enough and the prices - $300,000 or $400,000 apiece - are competitive enough that the units would be easily absorbed.

By Mr. Grunberg's estimate, it will cost him $10 million to $15 million to convert what is now office space into residences. The conversion could turn him a tidy profit in a relatively short period of time. Mr. Grunberg's proposal, moreover, fits in neatly with Mayor Eddie A. Perez's desire to expand homeownership in the city.

The developer seems to know what he's doing. Grunberg Realty owns and manages some of the finest commercial and residential real estate in New York City and in recent years has acquired similar properties in the Hartford area. In addition to the Bank of America building, the company owns 280 Trumbull St., the Medical Arts Center at 21 Woodland St. and the Glastonbury Corporate Center at 628 Hebron Ave.

To make the condo project work, however, Mr. Grunberg has made what seems like a reasonable request for $2 million from the Capital City Economic Development Authority to add 200 spaces to the building's garage because Bank of America controls most of the existing spaces.

"It sounds like a great project, not that difficult to put together and very attractive to buyers," said housing expert Steve Witten, senior director at Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Brokerage Co.'s National Multi-Housing Group in New Haven. Barring any flaws that turn up in Mr. Grunberg's plan, it is difficult to see how CCEDA could turn him down.

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