Renovated Hartford Land Bank home, now ready for tenants, ‘lifts the neighborhood up’

Renovated Hartford Land Bank home, now ready for tenants, ‘lifts the neighborhood up’
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For at least 15 years, the three-story home at 103 Earle St. was an eyesore — a rotted blight in the neighborhood that sits in the city’s northeast end.

But, after significant investment and work, the 100-year-old building has been restored and will soon welcome tenants due to the efforts of the Hartford Land Bank, private developer Menard “Tex” Sampson and the city.

Mayor Luke Bronin, Land Bank Finance and Programs Officer Yahaira Escribano and Menard were among those to cut the ribbon on Friday for the first of what is hoped to be dozens of similar properties throughout the city.

“When you see the before and after pictures, you’ll see that it’s pretty dramatic,” Bronin said of the restored home. “Not only was the facade of the building falling apart and clearly deteriorating, but the building was slanted. It had to go through major stabilization to be usable again.

“This transformation is dramatic, and it matters not just for this property, but for the entire street. Every property on Earle Street benefits from taking a blighted building and turning it into a beautiful building. … Our goal is to do that again and again and again and again throughout Hartford neighborhoods.”

Tenants will begin moving into the three-family home by the end of the month, Escribano said. Hartford residents make up a majority of the applicants seeking to live at the newly renovated house, she said.

The Land Bank, the first of its kind in the state, was established in 2020 to address blighted and abandoned homes and commercial buildings in Hartford. Before, Bronin said, the city could impose fines when properties became blighted.

“But for many years the city never went further than that because if the city took ownership of a property, it didn’t have anything to do with it,” Bronin said. “We created the Land Bank as an independent entity that could be the body that takes ownership and control of those blighted properties after the city takes possession and then steward those properties through the renovation process, make sure they go back into good and loving hands, that they’re well cared for and fully rehabilitated, and put back on the tax roles.

“And instead of being a weight and that pulls the neighborhoods down, be an example of investment and confidence that lifts the neighborhood up.”

The home located at 103 Earle Street is one of seven initial properties the city transferred to the Land Bank in 2021.

The ribbon cutting on Friday was the result of significant investment.

Menard, the developer, said it cost a little over $200,000 and five months of work to rehabilitate the dilapidated structure.

“This project has been a real tough one for me — the toughest one I’ve ever done,” he said. “A lot of people thought I was crazy to take this on. … With a project like this, you’ve got to have a certain type of mindset. It’s not easy. You have to have a team of good people around you. … When you come into a house like this, you’re going to meet a lot of things you did not expect.”

Escribano added that it typically costs more to redevelop a blighted home than what that rehabilitated home’s sale price would be on the open market.

“That is called the appraisal gap,” she said. “The price of what it will cost to fix versus what it costs to sell. That is part of the reason why this beautiful property will be tenant-occupied because the finance didn’t work necessarily.”

She noted that the state recently included $20 million to create a home ownership investment fund to bridge the appraisal gap.

Bronin added that whatever the cost to rehabilitate a property, it’s far less than what it’s worth to the neighborhood long term.

“The value of this is to lift the neighborhood up, to get rid of the cancer of blight in the community and increase value for every property that surrounds this property,” Bronin said.

Yackecha Dickenson, a resident of the city’s upper Albany area who attended the ribbon cutting, agreed.

“It is so meaningful to see this in the community,” she said. “It’s not an eyesore anymore. When people drive by, they see something they love and admire. … [A blighted building] drags down the area. It causes people to come out and hang out in vacant buildings. It’s just completely different. It’s a renewed feeling in the city. The hope is that it continues and we find more youths to be involved in the program as well.”

Bronin said a second redeveloped property located on Garden Street is expected to be finished in about a month.