HARTFORD – The original developers of Hartford’s Dunkin’ Donuts Park and the land surrounding it have filed an amended complaint primarily seeking to reclaim the mixed-use development around the stadium that the city evicted them from in 2016.
The filing in Hartford Supreme Court on Wednesday is the latest development in a long-running legal battle involving Centerplan Construction Co.
The former developers are, among other things, calling for the discontinuation of the current developer of mixed-use development, RMS Cos. of Stamford, from proceeding to the next stage of construction on the second of the four parcels, known as North Crossing.
Centerplan and DoNo Hartford are also seeking to add RMS to the court case.
RMS has nearly completed the $50 million first phase, which is located just south of Dunkin’ Donuts Park. Construction includes 270 apartments, a 330-seat parking garage, and 11,000 square feet of retail space. RMS CEO Randy Salvatore said he’s almost ready to move on to the next package.
In May, the city suffered a major setback when the state Supreme Court ordered a new trial in a wrongful termination case lobbied by Centerplan and DoNo Hartford. In 2019, a Supreme Court jury sided with the city.
The mixed-use development is a significant risk because the tax revenue generated was supposed to help the city offset the stadium’s $71 million cost. The area is also seen as integral to reconnecting downtown with the city’s neighborhoods to the north, torn apart by the construction of I-84 in the early 1970s.
Centerplan and DoNo Hartford are also seeking unspecified monetary damages from the city and its architect, Pendulum Studios.
Centerplan and DoNo Hartford were appointed by former mayor Pedro E. Segarra, but were fired by current mayor Luke Bronin for allegedly failing to finish the 6,100-seat stadium on time under an admittedly strict schedule.
The Dunkin’ Donuts Park opening has been pushed back by a year, to 2017, while a new contractor came on board to finish the job while Hartford Yard Goats, a subsidiary of the Double A of the Colorado Rockies, played its first season on the road.
Centerplan and DoNo Hartford originally filed a lawsuit in July 2016, arguing that they had been wrongfully terminated construction of the park and as a developer of surrounding parcels, sought $90 million in damages.
In addition to a Supreme Court jury siding with the city, Justice Thomas McCusher, following the jury’s ruling, lifted restrictions on parcels surrounding the stadium, allowing the city to hire RMS to pursue the mixed-use development.
On appeal, Centerplan and DoNo, through their attorneys Louis Pepe of McElroy, Deutch, Mulvaney & Carpenter, argued that the lower court in 2019 did not allow them to present evidence that they could not be held liable for “countless defects” on the field. designs because the engineer’s pendulum was under city control.
This, according to the developers, led to cost overruns, delays in the construction of the stadium and, in the end, the termination of the developers’ work.
The Supreme Court, in its 5-0 decision, determined that who had legal control over the architect and design of the stadium from January to June 2016 – from the time the terms paper was implemented to the time the city launched Centerplan and DoNo – was ambiguous and, therefore, must be decided by the jurors.
Centerplan and DoNo are still seeking monetary damages from the city, but they want to add RMS Cos as a defendant. (Pendulum has also been added as defendant, but previous files before the first trial were against him. Central Plan and DoNo are seeking financial damages from the architect as well.)
Centerplan and DoNo are seeking advertising judgment to determine the rights that Centerplan, DoNO, RMS, and the City have with respect to the four Parcels.
In addition, Centerplan and DoNo are seeking “determined performance” of the master development contract and ground lease contracts they have entered into with the city for the mixed-use development project surrounding the stadium.
Specific performance is a remedy that binds the parties to the agreement with the terms of that agreement.
Howard Rifkin, the city’s corporate advisor, said Thursday he expects the city to prevail in a second trial and called Centerplan’s attempt to halt the mixed-use development “irresponsible.”
“The complaint filed yesterday by Centerplan was the expected next step after the Supreme Court returned the case to the lower court, and the city remains confident that at the end of the day, the outcome will be the same as it was the first time — a jury ruling in favor of the city,” he said in Statement: “With regard to Centerplan’s irresponsible efforts to halt development of parcels adjacent to the stadium, which have already been decided upon in both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal, we will file an application for refusal as soon as possible.”
RMS said Thursday that it was reviewing the filing.