Here are Hartford’s 7 largest environmental contamination sites and what could be done with them – Hartford Courant

HARTFORD — Trees now tower above Paul O’Mara as he walks through the woods on Hartford’s Hawthorn Street, but the longtime Asylum Hill resident remembers the spectacular fire that destroyed a factory on the property in 1999 and left a far-reaching legacy of a brownfield.

“Since then, the property has become a real issue for the neighborhood in that, ideally, it is suited for some kind of housing,” said O’Mara, active with the Asylum Hill Neighborhood Association. “The real stumbling block is the property is contaminated. How bad the contamination is, I don’t know.”

The Hawthorn Street property is one of dozens of brownfields around the city that are part of a statewide database of properties that have received at least some brownfields funding, most often to assess the extent of contamination.

There are likely more that exist but brownfields funding hasn’t been sought and they aren’t in the database at the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Paul O'Mara said he still remembers the spectacular fire in 1999 that destroyed an old factory on the Hawthorn Street that is now a brownfield.

In Hartford, the city has taken control of what it considers key brownfields for future development, as it did last year with the 37-acre, former junkyard off Flatbush Avenue. The junkyard is seen as a key connector between the envisioned Parkville Arts and Innovation district and neighboring West Hartford.

Brownfields may present development opportunities but there are also difficulties. They often take years to redevelop and, for Hartford, there is an urgent need to add to the tax rolls.

State and federal funding for assessment and clean-up is highly competitive. In Connecticut, it is likely that all 169 municipalities have at least some brownfields.

“It’s a long process, and a lot of things have to line up,” Maureen Goulet, who oversees the brownfields funding program at the Capitol Region Council of Governments, said. “But in New England, in particular, and in our urban areas in particular is the way to develop for the future.”

An abandoned warehouse tagged with graffiti sits on a 37-acre, former junkyard in Hartford's Parkville neighborhood. The property, one of the largest brownfields in the city, is seen as ripe for redevelopment.

Goulet said brownfields often have fallen off the tax rolls and are a blight on the neighborhoods where they exist.

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said the city is largely built up and, given Hartford’s industrial heritage, land and structures ripe for redevelopment often have some degree of contamination.

While the state recommends getting an assessment and then working with a developer on a specific remediation plan, Bronin said that can cost the city a development opportunity.

“Waiting for those specific proposals, waiting for an investor who is willing to commit to a brownfield may mean you are turning away other opportunities in the meantime,” Bronin said. “So, while the standard of remediation depends on the ultimate end use, there also are measures you can take to try to bring it closer to be ready in advance.”

But Bronin observed, “it is difficult to identify funding sources.”

Federal and state funding for brownfields remediation has boosted redevelopment projects that have sat idle for decades, by making it more attractive to private investors and developers who don’t have to shoulder all the costs of a clean-up.

“The fact that they have been around that long — through good economic times, through bad economic times and nobody touching them — tells you that is a market failure, unfortunately,” Mark Lewis, the brownfields program coordinator for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said.

“Public investment is required to a certain extent to get these brownfields restarted and very often once that happens that enables the market to start working again and private investment to come in and redevelop these properties,” he said.

In the fiscal year that ended June 20, the state Department of Economic and Community Development had three of competitive brownfields grants programs. The largest, $17.9 million was distributed to 13 municipalities for 14 projects spanning 78 acres of brownfields. The state’s investment attracted $427 million in private funding, DECD said.

Connecticut also is taking steps to streamline the remediation process. In 2020, the legislature backed changes in the state’s “Transfer Act” to enable it to be replaced with a less time-consuming — and more palatable — framework for regulating brownfield cleanups. So burdensome were the act’s requirements that they could discourage brownfield redevelopment.

New regulations are being developed and, if approved by the legislature, the streamlined framework could be in place next year.

“This new approach will protect our environment and our communities while incentivizing smart, sustainable and environmentally-informed development,” Katie Dykes, DEEP’s commissioner, said.

The former Capewell Horse Nail factory has been renovated into 72, mixed-income apartments with amenities and views of the city.

In Hartford, there have been some high profile brownfield redevelopment successes in recent years.

They include the conversion of the decaying Capewell factory in Sheldon-Charter Oak into mixed-income apartments; the renovation of the Colt East Armory, with its iconic, blue-onion shaped dome, into office and other space; and the conversion of the M. Swift & Sons factory in the Northeast neighborhood into business incubator space.

Bronin, the Hartford mayor, has prioritized such brownfield redevelopment projects such as former junkyard near Parkville, properties along Homestead Avenue in the North End and the former McCook Hospital in the Blue Hills neighborhood.

But O’Mara said redeveloping the former factory site in Asylum Hill for housing that would be purchased would contribute to increasing homeownership in the neighborhood. Across the city, homeownership, at just 27%, is the lowest in the state.

“We’re cognizant of the complications of brownfields,” Paul O’Mara, a longtime resident of Hartford's Asylum Hill, said. “We’re not neophytes that think you can wave a magic wand and all this will be cleared up. take down the trees and level it."

(Jessica Hill/Special to the Courant)

Developing housing on brownfields sites is more expensive than a commercial project, sometimes by two or three times, because the clean-up standards are far more stringent, according to Erin Howard, Hartford’s economic development coordinator, said.

O’Mara, retired from Hartford insurer Aetna, said he and others in Asylum Hill are anxious to see something happen on the property, which has languished for years. Further investment in homeownership would build on efforts just across the street where the Northside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance, or NINA, built Victorian-style row houses.

“We’re cognizant of the complications of brownfields,” O’Mara said. “We’re not neophytes that think you can wave a magic wand and all this will be cleared up. take down the trees and level it. No, it’s much more complex. But we’re really looking for something that would advocate homeownership.”

Connecticut law defines a brownfield as: “any abandoned or underutilized site where redevelopment, reuse or expansion has not occurred due to the presence or potential presence of pollution in the buildings, soil or groundwater that requires investigation or remediation before or in conjunction with the restoration, redevelopment, reuse and expansion of the property.”

Here is a look at 7 of the largest brownfields in Hartford:

Riverfront Recapture's 60-acre parcel of land near the Hartford-Windsor line will add another link to the riverwalk system and potential future commercial development.

(Brad Horrigan/The Hartford Courant)

1. 228-610 Liebert Road

Owner: Riverfront Recapture

Size: 60 acres

Brownfields clean-up status: The contamination is mostly pesticides and pockets of illegal dumping on former farmland. A federal brownfield cleanup grant and a state grant have been secured.

Potential Use: A $10 million development could include a 9-acre cove for a paddle sports center, a riverfront walk that will connect Windsor and Hartford and 10 acres for a mixed-use commercial project.

 An abandoned conveyer belt is one of several structures on a 34-acre industrial site in the Parkville neighborhood, in this 2021 file photo. The property was  foreclosed on by Hartford and is likely the largest development site left in the city.

2. 173 Bartholomew Ave., 490-500 Flatbush Ave.

Owner: City of Hartford

Size: 37 acres

Brownfields clean-up status: The city is now performing a full environmental study of the site, a former, scrap metal junkyard, visible from I-84.

Potential Use: The city’s largest tract of land for development would likely unfold in phases over years and could be used for residential, commercial and industrial incubator space. The redevelopment could build on efforts in the Parkville Arts and Entertainment District, one of one of the 10 projects that could transform the city by the time Hartford reaches its 400th anniversary in 2035.

A CTfastrak bus pulls into the Sigourney St Station adjacent to a wooded area along Hawthorn Street in Hartford. The wooded area, a former factory site, is one of the largest brownfields in the city.

3. 85-103 Hawthorn St.

Owner: City of Hartford

Size: 35 acres

Brownfields clean-up status: Federal funds through the Capital Region Council of Governments have been used to assess contamination on the property, but more study is still needed.

Potential Use: A portion of the former property could be used for residential development, which has support in the Asylum Hill neighborhood.

A wooded area near the corner of Ledyard Street and E. Elliott Street in Hartford is one of the city's larger brownfields.

4. 90 Ledyard St., 23 Locust St.

Owner: City of Hartford

Size: 12 acres

Brownfields clean-up status: Federal funds were used in the late 1990s to assess the extent of future remediation. State records show clean-up is still pending.

Potential Use: Property in the South Meadows could be used for future industrial and commercial redevelopment.

The former Hanson-Whitney Co. factory, shown at left in a 2021 file photo, is targeted for potential redevelopment in the Parkville Arts & Innovation District.

5. 169 Bartholomew Ave.

Owner: RGH Bartholomew LLC

Size: 3 acres

Brownfields clean-up status: In the past decade, the former Hanson-Whitney Co. manufacturing property has been found to have contamination in the decaying building and surrounding property. Clean-up is still pending.

Potential Use: The building is within the Parkville Arts and Innovation District and is targeted for small- and mid-sized companies that are expanding and need more space.

Two properties on Homestead Avenue in Hartford were targeted for brownfields clean up for a now-defunct plan to locate a hydroponics company on the industrial corridor.

6. 367, 393, 424 Homestead Ave.

Owner: City of Hartford

Size: 3 acres

Brownfields clean-up status: A portion of the properties, but not all, had been remediated under a now-defunct proposal to bring a hydroponic grower to the area.

Potential Use: The properties would most likely be used for commercial or light industrial development, although residential also has been discussed. The area is considered part of the Albany Avenue Gateway, another of the 10 projects that could transform Hartford by 2035.

The former McCook Hospital on the corner of Coventry and Holcomb streets in Hartford is being evaluated for a potential brownfield clean-up.
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7. 80 Coventry St.

Owner: City of Hartford

Size: 23 acres

Brownfields clean-up status: The city has secured a federal grant to assess the extent of soil contamination on the site of the former McCook Hospital.

Potential Use: The property could be redeveloped in a mixed-use of residential and commercial, perhaps with a health care focus. The property is within the North End Wellness District, one of the 10 areas the city had designated as having the potential to transform Hartford by 2035.

See the list of all Hartford sites here:

Brownfield sites in Hartford, Conn.

A state database of active brownfields in Hartford contains properties that have received some sort of federal or state brownfields funding. The actual number of brownfields is likely larger because not all property owners have sought out funding.

Property Address Acres Source
1 Main Street 1 Main Street N/A EPA
10 Reserve Road 10 Reserve Road 7.85 EPA
111 Homestead Avenue 111 Homestead Avenue 0.64 DECD Grant
Aerospace Metals, Inc. 173 Bartholomew Avenue 8.6 ABC
175 Mather Street 175 Mather Street 0.38 EPA, DECD Grant
193 Homestead Avenue 193 Homestead Avenue 0.5 EPA
202 Albany Avenue 202 Albany Avenue 0.46 EPA
230 Albany Avenue 230 Albany Avenue N/A EPA
367 Homestead Avenue 367 Homestead Avenue 1.26 DECD Grant
40 Chapel Street 40 Chapel Street 0.5 EPA
42 Francis Avenue 42 Francis Avenue 0.13 EPA
Aerospace Metals, Inc. 490 Flatbush Avenue 14.1 ABC
52 Franklin Avenue 52 Franklin Avenue 0.12 EPA
690 Laundry & Drycleaners 690 Albany Avenue 0.28 BRRP
70 Edwards Street 70 Edwards Street 0.2 EPA
70 Edwards Street 72 Edwards Street 0.2 EPA
70 Edwards Street 74 Edwards Street 0.2 EPA
70 Edwards Street 76 Edwards Street 0.2 EPA
Aerospace Metals, Inc. 500 Flatbush Avenue 14.1 DECD Grant, ABC
Albany/Woodland 426 Woodland Street 1.08 EPA
Albany/Woodland 1135h Albany Avenue 0.27 EPA
Albany/Woodland 1137 Albany Avenue 0.06 EPA
Capewell Horsenail 40 Popieluszko Court 0.13 EPA
Capewell Horsenail 120 Wyllys Street 0.64 DECD Grant, EPA
Capewell Horsenail 110 Wyllys Street 0.06 DECD Grant, EPA
Capewell Lofts 70 Popieluszko Court 3.54 DECD Loan, DECD Grant
Chester A. Bowles Park Housing Complex 421 Granby Street N/A DECD Grant
Colt Gateway 140 Huyshope Street 3.09 EPA, DECD Loan, DECD Grant
Colt Gateway LLC 25 Van Dyke Avenue 0.71 EPA
Colts Arms 55 Van Dyke Avenue 2.2 DECD Loan
Colts Arms (Colt Gateway LLC) 25 Van Dyke Avenue 0.71 EPA; DECD Loan
Colts Arms East Armory 55 Van Dyke Avenue 2.2 DECD Loan
Comet Diner 267 Farmington Ave 0.21 Scprif Loan
Former Hanson & Whitney Manufacturing Site 169 Bartholomew Avenue 2.97 EPA, BRRP
Former Stanley B. Rockwell Co. 296 Homestead Avenue 0.86 EPA
Hartford Car Wash 2434-2470 Main Street 1.31 EPA, DECD Grant
Hartford Office Supply 376-400 Capitol Avenue 1.68 DECD Loan
Main And Chapel 1161 Main Street 0.16 EPA
Main And Chapel 40 Chapel Street N/A EPA
Main And Pavilion Shopping Center 1888/1954 Main Street 2.9 EPA
Metropolitan Cleaners 696 Albany Avenue 0.13 BRRP
85 Hawthorne Street 85 Hawthorn Street 35 DECD Grant
1212 Main Street 1212 Main Street 2.51 DECD Grant
Nelton Court 2461 Main Street N/A DECD Grant
Philbrick-booth Foundry 393 Homestead Avenue 1.19 EPA, DECD Grant
Pope Park Zion LLC 49-51 School Street 49-51 School Street 0.2 EPA
Pope Park Zion LLC 22-24 School Street 22-24 School Street 0.1 EPA
Pope Park Zion LLC 28-32 School Street 28 School Street 0.1 EPA
Pope Park Zion LLC 28-32 School Street 30 School Street 0.1 EPA, DECD Grant
Pope Park Zion LLC 41-43 School Street 41-43 School Street 0.21 EPA
Property A Colt Park South 141 Elliot Street 1.73 EPA
Property AA N/A N/A EPA
Property B Colt Park South 90 Ledyard Street 3.5 EPA
Property C Colt Park South 23 Locust Street 6.4 EPA
Property CC/Asylum Ave. 1280 Asylum Avenue 17 EPA
Property DD/105 Liebert Road 105 Liebert Road 1.1 EPA
Property E1 17-23 Norwich St./ Dutch Point 23 Norwich Street N/A EPA
Property E2 36 & 40 Norwich Street / Dutch Point 36 & 40 Norwich Street 1.16 EPA
Property E3 – 107-115 Wyllys / Dutch Point 107-115 Wyllys Street 0.47 EPA
Property Ee/106 Liebert Road 106 Libert Road 1.5 EPA
Property F Capewell N/A N/A EPA
Property FF/Block 9 North Meadows 9 North Meadows N/A EPA
Property G Sheldon St Parking Lot Sheldon Street 2 EPA
Property II – 517 Park Street / Allied Platers 517 Park Street N/A EPA
Property II-Allied Platers 517-523 Park Street 0.1 EPA
Property K1 Sheldon Charter Oaks 270 Huyshope Street 2.4 EPA
Property K2 Sheldon Charter Oaks 272-282 Huyshope Street 0.54 EPA
Property K3 Sheldon Charter Oaks 290-294 Huyshope Street 1.28 EPA
Property M (Block 6 North Meadows) 6 North Meadows N/A EPA
Property O West Side North Meadows North Meadows N/A EPA
Property Q, Sand/Clay Arsenal Parcel D-1 N/A N/A EPA
Property R – Sand Tract G N/A N/A EPA
Property S2 – Chestnut/Edwards 70 Edwards St. N/A EPA
Property T3 427 – 433 Albany Ave 427-433 Albany Avenue 0.13 EPA
Property U1 393 Homestead Avenue 1.19 EPA, DECD Grant
Property U2 – 424 Homestead Ave 424 Homestead Avenue N/A EPA, DECD Grant
Property U4 – Sigourney/Homestead Homestead Avenue N/A EPA
Property U5 – Signourney/Homestead Homestead Avenue N/A EPA
Property U6 – Signourney/Homestead Homestead Avenue N/A EPA
Property U7 45 Granby Street 45 Granby Street N/A EPA
Property V1 – 17-35 Bartholomew Ave 17-35 Bartholomew Avenue 1.15 EPA
Property X, 201 Bartholomew Ave 201 Bartholomew Avenue/600 Main St N/A EPA, ABC
Ramon Qurious Park/ Vincent Motors 354-380 Hudson Street 0.88 EPA
Riverfront Recapture/Hartford Riverwalk South Near Van Dyke Avenue 48 EPA
S-1, 17-73 Albany Avenue And Hartford Lumber Yard 17-73 Albany Avenue 3.88 EPA
Spectra (101 Pearl Street) 101 Pearl Street 0.28 DECD Loan
Spectra (111 Pearl Street) 111 Pearl Street 0.28 DECD Loan
Swift Factory 10 Love Lane 2.6 EPA, DECD Loan, DECD Grant
Teacher’s Corner Project 370 Asylum Street 0.36 DECD Loan
Upper Albany 393 Homestead Avenue 1.19 DECD Grant
Westbrook Village 22 Mark Twain Dr 4.9 DECD Loan
Riverfront Recapture ABC 228 Leibert Road 14 ABC
Riverfront Recapture ABC 590 H Leibert Road 9.15 ABC
Riverfront Recapture ABC 600 H Leibert Road 36.2 ABC
Riverfront Recapture ABC 610 Leibert Road 0.42 ABC

SOURCE: Department of Energy and Environmental Protection

Kenneth R. Gosselin can be reached at

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