Building Up Opportunity

Jul 31, 2020

Defining and Designing Liveability with the West Hartford Housing Authority 

The notoriously industrial Design District has undergone a major transformation over the past several years. From cafes, breweries, and doggy daycares sitting side-by-side with the home remodeling companies that put this area on the map, change is certainly brewing in the 06110 zip code. But of all the new buildings and businesses that are now calling the Design District home, it’s the new residential opportunities that will be responsible for truly redefining this long-forgotten corner of West Hartford. 

Enter 616 New Park Avenue, a 54 unit mixed residential and commercial space built in 2018 and 540 New Park Avenue, the notorious site of the old Acme Auto building which is set to become home to 54 apartments plus commercial space. We sat down with the Executive Director of the West Hartford Housing Authority, George Howell, to discuss their focus on the Design District, his thoughts on attracting future residents to the neighborhood, and what we can expect in terms of future developments.

What was the catalyst for investing in the Design District?

Ultimately, we found the old Pontiac site, 616 New Park Avenue, very attractive. The area was at the beginning of its transition to becoming a very vibrant, transit-oriented area of West Hartford with the creation of CTfastrak, which has its Elmwood station located directly south of 616 New Park. We saw this as an opportunity to develop housing geared toward young, working professionals in their 20s and 30s, as well as to provide new commercial space to the area. We saw an opportunity to further complement the work being done within the Design District with quality architecture, housing, and commercial space that would bring in new traffic to the corridor.  

We have a small business community here in the Design District that has continued to grow and flourish. How do you anticipate working with them? 

We support all the local, small businesses in the Design District. Whether it be our involvement in the Association itself by lending new ideas and insight, introducing new commercial space for small businesses to flourish, providing housing and bringing in new people and clients to the neighborhood, or referring local businesses to our contractors; we continue to support the booming economic climate here in the 06110. 

In terms of future development, what do they think should be prioritized over the next five years to make the Design District more attractive to future residents?

Continuing to bring in great commercial business with local trustworthy professionals is a must. The Design District is built on its founding principles that quality and integrity reign above all. Clients come to the area and feel a sense of trust and depth of knowledge throughout. 

In addition to keeping up the commercial side of things, people are looking for quality design. 616 and 540 New Park are created to transform the once auto-centric New Park Avenue corridor to a suburban city environment in a distinctive multi-use, transit-oriented, development district. This concept is attractive to people looking to move to the area as well as for those who reside there. 

What’s next for WHHA and Trout Brook Realty? Are there any other projects in the pipeline?

The next big project we are working on is 540 New Park Avenue. 540 will be built on the former Acme Auto Parts site and will be designed using the same principles as 616 with a contemporary feel, look, and plethora of “city center” amenities in an area of renewal. The new property continues to elevate the resurgence of the New Park Avenue corridor. Groundbreaking for 540 New Park is expected later this year, with completion in early 2022.

West Hartford Housing Authority creates and preserves housing opportunities in the greater West Hartford region by managing affordable quality housing and providing housing assistance services. Trout Brook Realty Advisors is an affiliate of the West Hartford Housing Authority serving as its development arm and an innovative, affordable housing developer. To learn more visit