Hotel America (5 Constitution Plaza) – Hartford, CT

Hartford embraced ideals of urban redevelopment and responded to the Connecticut Redevelopment Act of 1945 and the Federal Housing Act of 1949, and created the Hartford Redevelopment Agency in 1950. These acts incentivized the clearance of entire inner-city slum neighborhoods in many historic cities across the country to make way for urban renewal projects. Hartford identified areas for redevelopment and targeted Hartford’s East Side neighborhood, Constitution Plaza. Designed by noted modern architects Curtis and Davis, Hotel America was completed in 1964. A major component to the Constitution Plaza complex, it’s the first urban renewal project in Connecticut. In 2012, Hotel America was one of the first, if not the first, modern building to be listed in the State Register of Historic Places.

In January of 2011, the vacant building was purchased by 5CP, LLC, a consortium with Girona Ventures, LLC and Wonder Works Construction and Development Corporation, as primary managing partners. Crosskey Architects collaborated with the developers to convert the hotel, now referred to as Spectra Boutique Apartments, into a multi-housing project consisting of 190 units with a mix of 54 studios, 123 one-bedroom, and 13 two-bedroom units. The developers selected the building because of its prime location in downtown. The Front Street District, Connecticut Science Center, Convention Center, restaurants and entertainment venues are all within walking distance. Large windows made the building more attractive for redevelopment, allowing abundant natural light to flood living spaces and affording breath-taking views of the city and the Connecticut River. Inspired by 1960s colors and finishes, the interior designer created warm and inviting spaces respectful of the Modern-era. During construction, massive steel trusses were uncovered and celebrated as a design feature.

The layout of the second floor was the most challenging aspect of the design because of the lack of windows and the two, 103-ton steel trusses that support the structure over Kinsley Street; the largest steel members ever erected for a building in Connecticut. The space was used for resident amenities not requiring natural ventilation (i.e. theater room, library, community/billiard room, fitness center and exercise room. Live/work units with adjacent office space were introduced to the second floor to efficiently use dead space.

Hotel America was part of Hartford’s first urban renewal initiative to revitalize the downtown, which resulted in part the loss of Hartford’s architectural heritage. Ironically, the loss of historic fabric and a vacant lot yielded one of Hartford’s most important modern buildings. Hotel America is a testament that modern architecture is an important marker in our architectural history worthy of preservation. Perhaps the greatest parody is the building, based on architectural significance, was listed to the NR at 48 years-old, two years short of meeting the fifty-year threshold. Hotel America is an important achievement in Hartford’s architectural and planning history, representing a shift in preservation thinking about the significance of the Brutalist style. Two very different planning philosophies prevailed to create a great icon. An urban renewal pioneer in the 1960s, the building is once again part of Hartford’s revitalization.


By Nina Caruso, MSHP

36 Lewis Street – Hartford, CT

In 2013, Equity Trust Company was looking for a property in downtown Hartford when developer David K. Elwell, IRA came across a flyer for 36 Lewis Street. The proximity to Bushnell Park, Union Station restaurants and entertainment venues made 36 Lewis Street an ideal candidate for rehabilitation. David Elwell and Crosskey Architects collaborated to create a design that would respect the historic character of the building, which was the intent from the project onset. The one-story addition on the south side was removed, and the remaining space was converted to six townhouse apartments consisting of a mix of 4 one-bedroom units, and 2 two-bedroom units. Trusting Crosskey Architects to lead the way, David drew inspiration from the architect’s ideas to help finalize the unit layouts, which included high-end appliance, cabinetry, and flooring. The exterior of the Greek Revival house was restored and the non-historic additions were altered to accommodate the new residential layout.

As with any historic rehabilitation, there are always unknowns. During construction, unforeseen structural repairs needed to be made to the roof structure because of the improper installation of tension rods. In effect, the brick walls began turning outward requiring wood strapping. Unit A needed to be redesigned after interior walls were demolished exposing columns. Original Greek Revival woodwork was retained and integrated with new modern finishes.

The financing Structure for the redevelopment of 36 Lewis Street includes a construction/permanent loan from the Connecticut Region Development Authority and state historic tax credits. The development team is very proud that 36 Lewis Street is no longer the only vacant building on Lewis Street. The occupancy of this building will bring back the sense of community Lewis Street once had. Turning 36 Lewis Street back into residential use was the best decision for the block. Residents can enjoy open space in Bushnell Park, and can choose from many local dining options. 36 Lewis Street is truly one of-a-kind, located in a historic residential, pedestrian neighborhood downtown!


By Nina Caruso, MSHP

The Chimes Building – Syracuse, NY

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Early this winter, the Crosskey’s team headed to Syracuse, New York to assess and document the Chimes Building. Built in 1929, the Art Deco style building is located at the corner of West Onondaga Street and South Salina Street. The chamfered building corner gives the building prominence at a vital intersection and serves as a visual terminus for Salina Street. Shreve Lamb Harmon, architects of the Empire State Building, collaborated with Frederick O’Connor of Syracuse to design the twelve story office building. The building was famous for its chimes, which struck every fifteen minutes and whenever Syracuse University won a football game. The chimes were discontinued after World War II.

The building is a very good candidate for redevelopment as a mixed-use project, providing much needed housing in downtown Syracuse. The retail/commercial spaces at the street level will remain but will be reconfigured. The second floor will be redeveloped with twelve (12) one and two-bedroom flats, a community room, fitness room, and leasing office. On floors seven through twelve, each floor will be converted into twelve (12) one and two-bedroom flats for a total of 81 units combined. The third through sixth floors were previously converted to apartments.

The sound of the chimes no longer reverberates off the buildings along the Salina Street corridor, however, the Art Deco style building is a reminder of a significant movement in architecture. As we leave the past behind and move ahead in changing times, the Chimes Building will be rehabilitated to insure its long-term preservation. A graduate of Syracuse University, Mr. Crosskey, is excited to return to Syracuse to do what we love in historic preservation and community revitalization.


By Nina Caruso, MSHP