As part of a campaign to make downtown more inviting, East Hartford is moving closer to purchasing the long-disturbed Church Corners Inn one-bedroom house on Main Street to convert it into one-bedroom apartments.
The city plans to buy and close the historic four-storey building, have it demolished and contract with a private developer to rebuild it.
“Our police there are often called for various crimes, and it is destabilizing this important part of Main Street, which is at the heart of our city,” said City Council member Angie Parkinson at a recent council meeting.
“The building has been problematic for a while. There are blatant health code violations and serious fire safety concerns, including insufficient entry and exit,” Parkinson said when she recommended the council’s real estate commission buy it.
Mayor Mike Walsh’s administration announced earlier this year that owner 860 Main St. LLC plans to sell the building soon, and Walsh wants the city involved to ensure the property doesn’t deteriorate further.
If the council and the planning and zoning committee approve the idea, Walsh said on Tuesday the city would have an ambitious schedule: “Purchase by December 1, move (of tenants) to early 2023, demolition by June 30, housing by late 2024.” .”
The chairman of the board, Rich Kehoe, emphasized that East Hartford has no plans to keep the building or enter the housing sector.
“It would soon be handed over to a private developer,” Kehoe told the city. “We would just be there to make sure whatever is done in the future is consistent with the downtown improvement.”
The plan is to find a buyer who will strip the dilapidated building, which has been the subject of health complaints for years.
City records show that Church Corners Inn was built around 1913 and served as a hotel and restaurant for over 60 years.
In the 1990s, it was a one-room house with rooms rented by the week and a reputation for alleged drug use in and around the building. A new owner renovated the exterior in 1998 with a $47,000 federal grant, announcing that the drug problem was over, but the Church Corners Inn remained a nuisance.
It has “health problems, including overdoses, hoarding, mold and bed bugs,” according to the city’s Control Tower report, a long-term community revitalization plan. “(The) restaurant has had issues with public safety and licensing.”
Police Chief Scott Sansom reported in late July that police had already handled 262 calls to the building this year.
So far in 2022, police have been called up for two death investigations, five assaults, one robbery, seven robbery complaints, 27 disputes, 49 welfare checks, 13 noise complaints and 34 medical calls.
“Our January five-year review found that we responded to 2,300 calls for service on 860 Main St,” Sansom wrote.
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If East Hartford divided its annual police budget by the number of citywide service calls it handles, the cost of each call would average $514, Sansom said. Based on that formula, 860 Main St. has cost taxpayers $1,182,000 over the past five years, he said.
The restaurant on the ground floor in the building has also had problems, he said.
“In March 2020, EHPD officers discovered that Beso Lounge staff had placed traffic cones on Main Street to create VIP parking spaces and solicit money,” Sansom wrote.
Despite the governor’s executive orders during the heart of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the restaurant remained open, police said.
“Agents found that the restaurant operated as a nightclub, charging fees for entry, performing pat-downs, playing dance music that could be heard outside, staying open until 2 a.m., and officers heard gunshots in the area,” he wrote.
The planning and zoning committee will take up the purchase plan on August 10. No purchase price has been disclosed, but appraisals estimate the property’s value at $1.2 million to $1.4 million.
Don Stacom can be reached at: [email protected]