A New Jersey investor who claims experience acquiring and transforming real estate basket cases plans to do just that in a transitional neighborhood in Hartford’s North End.
Since August 2007, Ray Eshaghoff, says he and his backers have invested more than $1.2 million to buy and rehabilitate 10 multi-family buildings with a total of 85 apartment units, along with a vacant lot, on Bedford and Brook streets, in the heart of the historic Clay-Arsenal neighborhood.
The landlords expect their first foray into Connecticut real estate to generate the same positive investment returns the group has realized in other “turnaround opportunities’’ in Harlem and neighborhoods in New York, New Jersey and Arkansas, Eshaghoff said.
“We look for distressed assets,’’ said Eshaghoff, who has offices in North Bergen, N.J. “We want to turn around a community while making a decent return for our investors.’’
Eshaghoff found what he was looking for with the Bedford Street buildings that “have been in a state of disrepair for decades.’’ There is a demand, he said, for better quality rentals in the North End neighborhood.
Despite the economic slump, he hopes to ride an urban renewal trend in Clay-Arsenal.
Located on the fringe of downtown, Clay-Arsenal was home to Jewish immigrants who settled there in the late 19th century, according to Karen O’Maxfield’s pictorial history of Hartford’s neighborhoods and landmarks (www.hartford.omaxfield.com).
During World War I, Clay-Arsenal beckoned to African-Americans and, after World War II, to Puerto Ricans who came north to work in Connecticut’s tobacco fields. But by the 1960s, Clay-Arsenal’s fortunes ebbed as residents flocked to Hartford’s suburbs.
Today, Clay-Arsenal is being transformed. The Hartford YMCA is nearing completion of its new community facility next door to North End Gateway, a 57-unit, low-income housing development. Both are a block from Eshaghoff’s properties. The city’s community health center also is within walking distance.
According to city land records, the properties Eshaghoff purchased through his two companies, Elite Realty Inc. and BSG Management, were built between 1900 and 1924.
Eshaghoff said he paid $950,000 for nine buildings located on both sides of Bedford, and the 10th around the corner, on Brook Street. Later, he paid $200,000 for a vacant parcel behind one of the Bedford Street properties for parking for 70 cars.
So far, five apartments have been leased in the first four buildings, which were recently certified by the city as fit for occupancy, he said. Leases are pending with another dozen tenants, with monthly rents ranging from $600 for a one-bedroom to $1,500 for five bedrooms, Eshaghoff said.
For tenants who want more than affordable housing, all the apartments are being upgraded with wood kitchen cabinetry and flooring and new heating systems, he said. In addition, the properties are monitored using digital cameras. A security manager lives on the property.
Eshaghoff is confident that once his apartments are fully renovated and leased and other neighborhood improvements are complete “the long-term viability of the project will be positive.”
Landlord Cuts Rent
The owner of a Class B office building at 290 Roberts St. in East Hartford has lowered the asking rent to try to fill about a third of its empty space.
Landlord Roberts Street Associates wants $16 a square foot gross, plus janitorial fees, for 10,274 square feet of vacant space that could accommodate as many as three tenants in 1,200- to 4,400-square-foot blocks on the second and third floors.
Broker Larry Levere of Sentry Commercial said the rent was set “a little below market rates’’ to attract tenants.
Environmental firm ATC Associates occupies most of the approximately 30,000-square-foot building built in 1987, Levere said.