April 9, 2019

CT Innovations pursues Colt Gateway in Hartford-New Haven HQ split

HBJ Photo | STEVE LASCHEVER
HBJ Photo | STEVE LASCHEVER
Next year, Connecticut Innovations could relocate part of its operation to Colt Gateway's East Armory.

The state's quasi-public venture capital arm, Connecticut Innovations, said it's decided to depart its longtime Rocky Hill home base and is negotiating for space in Hartford's Colt Gateway.

CI aims to split its 37-employee operation across Hartford and New Haven.

After voting last Monday to terminate its I-91 Tech Center lease that expires at year's end, CI's board directed CFO Philip Siuta to negotiate for 3,500 square feet at Colt, where it will be closer to state legislators, and 10,000 square feet at one of two finalist locations in New Haven -- The District and the First Niagara Bank Building at 195 Church St.

"The principal reasons why the board and CI have decided to move is we want to be closer to our portfolio companies, which are highly concentrated in a few key areas, and we want to make it easy for the companies and for our partners and prospects we're considering to meet with us," CI CEO Matt McCooe said Tuesday.

The former Colt gun factory has undergone a major mixed-use redevelopment over the past decade and commercial tenants now include a 75-seat Thomas Hooker Brewery tasting room, JCJ Architecture, Foley Carrier Services and others.

Larry Dooley, CEO of CG Management Co., the co-developer of Colt Gateway, confirmed Tuesday that negotiations were ongoing and that CI would be moving into the East Armory building, between JCJ and U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy's local office. The space is located directly beneath the iconic onion-shaped blue dome.

"It's really nice to have CI at Colt Gateway," Dooley said. "I think any time you get a high-profile tenant like that, it's good on the exposure side."

He added that Colt's redevelopment has been a public-private partnership, and that the presence of a job-creating entity like CI furthers that narrative.

McCooe said CI has not made any final decisions on exactly how its staff would be split across the two cities, but he said the management team, himself included, would be based in New Haven.

CI has coworking agreements with several other locations, including Cure Creative Commons in Groton, UConn's Technology Incubation Program in Farmington, and The District, where it could end up with a larger lease, depending on the result of ongoing negotiations.

Green Bank on the hunt too

One of CI's current neighbors at the I-91 Tech Center and a fellow quasi-public, the similarly-sized Connecticut Green Bank, is also in the midst of a search for a new headquarters, CEO Bryan Garcia confirmed recently.

The Green Bank can proceed at a more leisurely pace, though, since its lease runs until the end of 2020. It hasn't yet officially voted to end its lease in Rocky Hill.

"We've given ourselves some runway to make a decision," Garcia said.

The Green Bank put out an RFP last October and received about a dozen responses.

Garcia declined to identify the interested landlords, but he said he ultimately hopes to be closer to Hartford.

"There's a balance to pursue in terms of making sure we find a location that's competitively priced while at the same time representing the green sustainability values we represent," he said.

That means the organization may desire a property that's a part of the Green Bank's C-PACE commercial building efficiency program, or one with a LEED certification or electric vehicle chargers.

Mark Siegal, principal and managing member of Capstone Properties, which acquired the I-91 Tech Center in 2015 for $12.2 million, said he's not concerned about filling the space CI, and eventually the Green Bank, would vacate.

"We've been marketing the space and we've had an enormous amount of interest from other potential lessees," Siegal said.

He said the property recently signed a new tenant, National Physician Services.

"We're pretty positive about our feelings about the I-91 Tech Center," Siegal said.

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