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High hopes for Hartford housing development to halt departures

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HARTFORD -It has stood vacant for decades.

The old brick chipped and weathered from neglect.

Vines growing through walls that once held windows.

At one time this building was teeming with life and production.

The facility, in the Sheldon Charter Oak neighborhood, was re-built in 1903 after a fire.

That’s where it housed the Capewell Horse Nails Company- the largest horse nail producer in the world.

It was part of a neighborhood boom of industrial development, with Colt Fire Arms just down the street.

Eventually though, Capewell left and the building went dark.

People left the neighborhood.

"Unfulfilled promises that were continually made. Steps to start, steps to stop,” said long-time resident and neighborhood advocate Bernadine Silvers. “not knowing when we were going to get anything done but understanding that unless Capewell got done, our neighborhood would not be a good place to be."

Wednesday was a new beginning.

A horseshoe toss to break ground on what will be the Capewell Lofts, a tribute to the long-standing history on this plot of land.

"I can't wait to see the lofts once they are complete and what this new refurbished building will look like and the vibrancy it will bring to this neighborhood,” said Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra.

"We've been hard at work making sure we have the kinds of housing that will attract the kind of workforce to live in Hartford that we so desperately want to see,” Governor Dannel Malloy told a crowd at the groundbreaking on Wednesday.

The state faces challenges attracting the best and the brightest to its cities, like Hartford.

A new Bloomberg Business analysis named the top 20 U.S. cities that are seeing the most people leaving, and three of Connecticut’s metro areas were near the top: Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport.

Economists blame the high cost of living.

Malloy also points to changing demographics, like an aging population.

"Part of that transition is to build this kind of housing to attract the jobs that get filled by younger people,” said Malloy. “I'm not responsible for the twenty years of no job growth."
Malloy said there is a trend of people wanting to live in urban areas.

"People are coming back into cities after raising their families, all of that bodes well for Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport, Stamford, Waterbury, and other smaller communities if we provide the jobs and the housing opportunities that people are looking for,” said Malloy.

The Bloomberg analysis used U.S. Census data from 2013 to 2014.

Connecticut’s latest jobs numbers continue to show positive job growth in the state.