Dan Bertram is a Real Estate Developer with BRT, a company that owns a lot of property in Danbury.

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Bertram made his first guest appearance on the I-95 Morning Show nearly a decade ago. Bertram has been very busy in that time and his proposals have become local news headlines recently so we thought it was time to reach out and request an interview. Dan was gracious enough to give us a few minutes on Tuesday (6/13/23) morning and chat about what's happening with the development of the Hat City.

Danbury's Future?

It's interesting, guys like the Mayor and City Councilman. we talk to these all these people about their vision for what they'd like the city to look like but folks like you are vital to that process too, where do you see Danbury going in the next few years?

"You go as fast as you can on the areas that have and open lane. By that I mean, we've done stuff downtown but it's hard to get enough land together in order to do the jobs with scale, right? You need some kind of acreage to do something that is big enough to have impact. So you kind of have to take it in the steps as the opportunities arise.

That's kind of why I pivoted on this hotel because I've been doing a lot of downtown stuff but the hotel, because it's there already seemed like a quick turn opportunity to provide something stimulative to the area but in general I think that there is some very interesting things that have happened.

I mean, the restaurants on Mill Plain in the last decade, there's some real evolution. A lot of it came down to where you could develop, right? You have the whole west side that came along, both apartments and for-sale product, the Toll Brothers and the like. This is a little bit of an extension of something on the west side into something that is at a price point that people could afford. That is kind of why I liked the hotel.

There are lots of opportunities Lou, I think everybody just has to work together and you can do a lot but if a business is going to come to an area, you need a place for their employees to live, it's all interwoven."

I'm just really passionate about Danbury, especially Main Street and I think there's a lot of people who are, who'd like to see it come back to it's former glory as a place where people want to be, hangout and live so we're curious what folks like you are up to. 

"We would do more. I basically, there are folks who own chunks of the land down there. {inaudible} have a proposal for South Main and Joe does, I know Joe DaSilva would like to do some stuff, I'd help anybody who's want to deal with me. I can be a lot to deal with however I'm happy to put a shoulder into it because I agree with you that there is a...When you're trying to create an eco-system it's not a zero sum game, right? You're community making so the more you can get to stimulate an area, the more you can get done the better for everybody frankly." 

Dan Bertram
Dan Bertram

The hotel project Bertram referred to is a redevelopment of Crowne Plaza hotel that has made the news in recent months. Bertram explained the project to us earlier in the conversation, saying he'd hoped to convert the hotel into a massive block of studio, and one bedroom apartments. The entire project has a larger vision, in that they intend on converting the existing ballroom into the headquarters for Danbury's Hackerspace program and call it "Innovation Studios."

What's the Holdup? 

It sound like a nice plan but I got the sense there was a holdup of some sort and followed up with Bertram to get some clarification. I told Mr. Bertram I've not been following the story closely enough but would like to know more and he replied:

"We are in the middle of a public hearing process to amend the Danbury zoning regulations to allow the conversion of a hotel in the CA-80 zone to studio and one bedroom apartments. If we get that, we can allow the Hackerspace to lease over 20,000 SF of space in the building for $1 per year in rent.

The hackerspace was recently awarded a state grant of over $500k for fit-up of this location. We’re trying to secure these local zoning changes so that we can keep the whole plan on track."
Bertram told us the project has not been a straight line from the beginning but says he remains positive. He believes that the project has real benefits to residents seeking affordable housing options.
Why He Believes The Crowne Plaza Project Meets City Needs
His proposed pricing for studios is $1,250 and 1-bedrooms around $1,775 per month. His plan would provide the city with 154 studios and 44 one-bedroom apartments. He says the hotel is a great option to meet these workforce housing rental figures and the alternative, ground-up construction would be too costly to get there.
Bertram believes this could help city residents who simply cannot find anything they can afford. He told me he spoke to a woman whose daughter has a Section 8 voucher for rental assistance, applicable to housing costs up to $1,485 but she cannot find a Danbury option in that price range. Bertram added he has the full support of the Chamber of Commerce and said "the most environmentally sensitive development is always redevelopment."
Dan Bertram
Dan Bertram
 There does seem to be some resistance to Bertram's plan, according to the News Times, Danbury's Planning Director Sharon Calitro wrote an eight page memo to Danbury's Zoning and Planning Commissions stating her issues with the proposal. The criticisms include a question about whether the proposed units would remain affordable over time. Additionally the Planning Commission voted to send a negative recommendation to the Zoning Commission on the changes he'd need to make the project work.
The public hearing on the zoning amendment will resume on the evening of June 27th.
Listen below to hear the full I-95 Morning Show interview from (6/13/23). NOTE: Most of our conversation about the Crowne Plaza project took place after the radio interview.

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