Auction for Hilton in downtown Hartford ends without a buyer; owners pursuing other options

Kenneth R. Gosselin, Hartford Courant
·2 min read

The fate of the 392-room Hilton hotel in the heart of downtown Hartford remained uncertain Wednesday following a 2-day auction that didn’t draw a bid acceptable to the sellers.

The sellers, Waterford Group, said the “reserve price” -- the minimum price a seller would accept from a buyer -- had not been met in the auction. The starting price was $5.5 million.

In a brief statement, Waterford said the advisor on the auction “is in active discussions with interested parties that have expressed the need for additional time for due diligence and the preference to negotiate through a private sales process.”

Waterford said it will continue to pursue these “potential buyers” in the coming weeks.

In July, Waterford warned the Hilton could close because of the drop off in corporate bookings and business drawn from such venues as the XL Center and Connecticut Convention Center in the coronavirus pandemic was so substantial. Waterford told the state labor department it had laid off 124 at the hotel and reduced the hours of another 30.

As of Wednesday, the Hilton remained open as does the Marriott Hartford Downtown at the convention center, also owned and operated by Waterford.

The 22-story Hilton on Trumbull Street has remained key cog in the booking strategy for large conventions and athletic tournaments in times outside of the pandemic. A closure would make it more difficult to attract larger events to the city because of the loss of hotel rooms.

Waterford confirmed the auction of the Hilton early in September as Hartford’s city council deliberated and later approved an extension of the lease of city land under the hotel for 49 years beyond its expiration in 2022.

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin argued the extension was critical to attract a buyer. The lease, among other things, requires a new owner to make upgrades to maintain the hotel as a Hilton or other upscale brand and honor a union agreement with the hotel workers.

As an incentive for prospective buyers, the city agreed to a phase-in of annual payments in lieu of taxes, necessary because the new owner will have to contend with a recovery from the pandemic and invest in upgrades.

Contact Kenneth R. Gosselin at kgosselin@courant.com.

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