Former Harold’s bridal shop building changes hands for $4.85M

NEW HAVEN — A New York City-based developer has purchased the long-vacant former Harold’s Bridal Shop property on Elm Street for $4.85 million, and intends to follow through on already approved plans to convert the site into 96 new apartments.

On Aug. 10, the holding companies Gorjian Assets LLC, BBH Properties LLC, and 19 Elm Property LLC purchased the single-story retail building at 19 Elm St. from 19 Elm LLC.

That property last sold for $1 million in 2016, and the city last appraised it as worth $1,275,200. The site was long home to the Harold’s Bridal Shop, a tuxedo, wedding gown, and other formalwear company that operated in New Haven for seven decades before closing its doors in 2015.

The new owners are affiliates of the New York City-based firm The Hakimian Organization, which describes itself on its website as ​“a developer, owner, and manager of New York real estate since 1970. Imbuing its brand of luxury real estate on every residential, office and hotel project it has created, the firm takes pride in its reputation as one of New York’s finest developers. Through its completion of over 30 ground-up construction and conversion projects, The Hakimian Organization has helped change the face of New York’s sophisticated metropolitan landscape.”

In an email comment sent to the Independent on Friday, Rex Hakimian  —  who is the new owner’s executive director for finance and acquisition  —  said that the Hakimian Organization plans to construct 96 new apartments at the Harold’s site, in line with the most recent site approval that the previous owners, an affiliate of MOD Equities, won in 2020.

“Yes, we are staying with the approved plans with minor modifications,” Hakimian said. ​“The location and property provide us with a great canvas to create rental units that are both beautifully designed and well laid out. The building will also benefit from strong transportation access, plentiful amenities and great views.”

Asked why his New York City-based organization has turned its residential development sights on New Haven, he stated, ​“Over the last few years our organization has been looking to expand across the East Coast. Southern CT has been a particular focus for our company. It provides a natural expansion beyond our base in New York, along with strong demand for quality rental housing.”

In a special exception application submitted to the Board of Zoning Appeals in June for 19 Elm St., the then-prospective new owners also wrote about their intentions to follow through on the previously approved 96-unit site plan.

“The property owner obtained Site Plan approval to construct a seven-story structure on the subject property,” the Hakimian affiliate’s zoning relief application reads. ​

“This property was formerly home to ​‘Harold’s Formalwear’ and has sat vacant and undeveloped for nearly 10 years. Approval was granted for 96 residential units and 1398 square feet or commercial space on the 1st Floor.

“The applicant intends to purchase the property and construct the approved plan with minor modifications related to parking and loading.”

The previous owner was an affiliates of MOD Equities, the locally based real estate company run by brothers Jacob and Josef Feldman.

Since first purchasing the historic former formal wear property seven years ago, the Feldmans’ company has won a handful of different approvals from various city land-use boards to convert the vacant site into new apartments.

In 2015, they pitched a Harold’s apartment conversion plan to downtown neighbors at a meeting of the Downtown Wooster Square Community Management Team.

In 2017, the won site plan approval from the City Plan Commission for a plan to build a 46-unit apartment building at the vacant former commercial site.

Then, in April 2020, they came back to the City Plan Commission to get a new approval for a larger, 96-unit apartment building at that same site.

Two years later, and with still nothing built, the Feldmans’ company and an affiliate of the Hakimian Organization returned to the Board of Zoning Appeals this summer, this time with an application to reduce the number of required on-site parking spots from 35 to 24 for the planned new 96-unit apartment development. (After receiving a favorable recommendation from the City Plan Commission in August, that parking relief application should get a final vote by the BZAA in September.)

The Feldmans did not respond to an email request for comment by the publication time of this story. During a brief phone interview earlier this summer for this Independent article about four long-delayed downtown developments, Jacob Feldman said this about 19 Elm St.: ​“After a long journey, I think we’re getting to a point where it’s going to go up soon.”

Elsewhere downtown, the Feldman brothers’ company is in the process of converting the former James English building at Court and State Street into 39 new apartments.

They also recently sold the eight-story office building at 129 Church St. for $8 million, soon after winning city permission to convert that property into 92 new apartments.


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