180 Allyn. Cutter Financial. PlazaWest. These are the names of three buildings/complexes that were supposed to go up in Hartford in the 1980s and 1990s. They were never built, for various reasons, most of them financial (and some of them with scandalous epilogues, which I’ll get to later). Not surprisingly for those who’ve seen (Re)Building Hartford: A City Captured By Artist Richard Welling or who’ve read our numerous blog posts about Welling’s favorite subject matter for his drawings, he was all over these developments, particularly PlazaWest.
180 Allyn was meant to be Hartford’s “newest business address,” featuring numerous setbacks and eventually rising over 800 feet to a decorative, peaked roof and spire. Retail stores, a day care, and a restaurant were going to be housed on the ground floor, with office space in the stories above. The 14th and 15th floors were meant to house a dining club, open only to tenants and their guests during the day and to the public in the evening.
Sounds good! So what happened? The developer, Oakleaf Development Corporation of Hartford, went bankrupt and was unable to put up the building. (An aside: There’s an article from the Hartford Courant, dated August 25, 1991, stating that the developer, Daniel Friedman, asked Charles J. Lincoln to secure a “straw” loan from First Central Bank. The loan would be taken out by Lincoln but was meant for Friedman’s Oakleaf Development Corporation, which would not have qualified for the loan itself. This was but one example of alleged bank fraud that got First Central Bank in hot water with authorities.) Today, it’s a parking lot.
Cutter Financial Center at 111 Lewis Street and 111 Pearl Street was going to be the tallest building in New England; at 878 feet and 59 stories and capped with a gold dome, it would be taller than the John Hancock building. 111 Lewis Street would preserve the historic buildings and integrate them into Cutter, with “elegant condominium houses” on the top floors. 111 Pearl Street would have offices, retail shops at street level, and its own parking.
So why doesn’t Hartford proudly claim the tallest building in New England? Again, the developer, Anthony F. Cutaia, faced financial troubles. Interestingly, in 2012, Cutaia was sentenced to four years in federal prison for running a Ponzi scheme in South Florida.
The building that would have been demolished at 111 Pearl Street, a seven-story structure that has been around since at least the 1950s, still stands. 111 Lewis was to be the new address incorporating the historic buildings on Lewis Street, never existed. Lewis Street remains relatively untouched by the building boom and proposed buildings.
Now we arrive at PlazaWest, the largest in area of the three developments. Consisting of five towers, three of them skyscrapers, PlazaWest was going to be located near Bushnell Park, bounded by Ann, Pearl, Allyn, and High Streets, with Asylum Street running through it. The buildings were going to house condos, parking, retail shops and offices, and were being aimed at that market demographic “left out” by luxury developments like the Cutter Financial Center. It was to be announced in 1989 and completed in 1996. Richard Welling drew these buildings extensively and from different angles, possibly for a poster (unseen by this writer).
Unfortunately, I cannot locate any information on this project and why it failed. Perhaps it never got off the ground? (<–GET IT?)
The city of Hartford apparently welcomed 180 Ally and Cutter Financial with open arms, prematurely demolishing buildings, issuing permits, and displacing tenants, all for edifices that never materialized. As we well know, Hartford has more than its fair share of surface parking lots and probably never really needed any more. Are we more cautious today with what we tear down and what we put up?