May 31, 2008

A mystery developer at center of Depot Square plan

The developer that submitted the sole proposal for Bristol's downtown revitalization remains a mystery.
The only developer that sought the opportunity to remake the mall property was the Florida-based Heritage Financial Group, which may be run by a self-proclaimed millionaire who calls himself “the nation’s leading expert on making fast cash with quick turn real estate.”
It’s possible, too, that the company bills itself as “the one-stop provider of mobile and manufactured homes” in its hometown of Jacksonsville.
What little we know for sure is that the Los Angeles-based Cielo Real Estate Investment Group submitted a comprehensive conceptual plan for the 17-acre former mall site on behalf of Heritage Financial Group of Jacksonville.
Jaime Parker, of Cielo, said Saturday that Heritage has “done a multitude of projects” over the years and doesn’t sell mobile homes.
Beyond that, he wouldn’t talk about the company that would, he said, “become the eventual purchasers and developers of this project.”
Florida's secretary of state lists on its website dozens of "Heritage Financial" firms in the Sunshine State, but the ones in Jacksonville all appear to list Ronald Legrand as their president.
Legrand runs a program that aims to teach those who sign up how to make moneyh in real estate.
“Before we go any further, let's clear one thing up,” he says on his chief website, “you may have heard it said that I’m a ‘Millionaire Maker.’ This is absolutely true. I’m personally responsible for helping many people rise into the world of the wealthy.”
On another site, Legrand promises, “I’ll Teach You TOTALLY Legal, Rarely Shared Secrets And Systems That Will Bring The Cash To YOU, So You Don’t Have To Jeopardize Anything To Get Started In The Real Estate Business. And No – You Don’t Use Your Own Money – You Use Someone Else’s… For FREE!”
Legrand calls himself “just a simple auto mechanic with a redneck background who barely got out of high school” but discovered how to make money buying and selling houses. He claims to have sold more than 1,600 homes over the past 25 years.
It’s unclear, though, whether he has anything to do with the proposal made in Bristol.
However, the only other Heritage Financial Group listed in Jacksonville appears to be a mobile home dealer.
“At Heritage Financial Group we are reliable and committed to serving all of your mobile and manufactured home dealer needs,” a mobile home dealers’ website says.“We strive to offer a high level of service and quality in everything we do,” the advertisement-type website proclaims.
“That’s not them,” Parker said of the mobile home seller. He could not be reached again later about the possible Legrand connection.Paradise Village Mobile Homes is listed at the same address in Jacksonville.
Calls to Heritage Financial, Paradise Village and Legrand were not returned Saturday.

What’s in a name?
The paperwork submitted to Bristol lists the developer as Heritage Financial Group, Inc. of Jacksonville, Fla.
The Florida secretary of state has one firm that matches that name, listing its address as 9799 Old St. Augustine Rd. in Jacksonville.
Its president is listed as Ronald F. Legrand of 5490 Greenland Road, Jacksonville. Legrand is a real estate investment guru who writes books, gives speeches, provides seminars and the like to global Publishing, Inc. lists its address as 9799 Old St. Augustine Road in Jacksonville.
In addition to the records at the Florida secretary of state’s website, there is a listing on a mobile home dealers’ website for Heritage Financial Group at 10201 W. Beaver St. in Jacksonville, the same address that also houses Paradise Valley Mobile Homes on the city of Jacksonville’s website.
There is no clear connection between the mobile home dealer and Legrand’s company except there appear to be no corporate records filed in Florida for any other Heritage Financial in Jacksonville.

Bristol officials say they’ll do their homework
The chairman of the Bristol Downtown Development Corp. said the plan that Heritage Financial backed appears to be a good one.
“It’s a wonderful proposal,” Johnson said Saturday. “Now we just have to see if it’s a viable proposal.”
Johnson said that the downtown corporation, a nonprofit created last year by the city, will look into Cielo and Heritage Financial as part of its normal background investigation to see if they have the fiscal strength to carry out the project.
“There are a whole lot of things” that will need to be checked out, Johnson said.
Johnson said the downtown company won’t pick a preferred developer until its members are convinced there’s a solid plan with solid prospects for panning out.
“The logical step now is for us to do the due diligence,” Johnson said.
If it turns out that the firms involved in the only proposal the corporation received aren’t up to it, Johnson said, “then we’re back to square one.”
If that happens, officials will see if they need to revise the ideas they asked for in the bidding documents to try to get more companies to seek the job.
Johnson said he was disappointed that only one proposal came in.
He said he thought the scale of the project was likely too big for local developers such as Carpenter or D’Amato construction companies, but he said he figured that some major New England developers or others elsewhere in the country might be interested.
Johnson said that after shelling out $20,000 for national advertising, it’s a shame the only bidder is a company that was already eyeing Bristol.

Bidder explains his role
The man who submitted the only proposal for the former downtown mall site said Saturday he was surprised to learn he had no competition.
Jaime Parker of the Los Angeles-based Cielo Real Estate Investment Group said he’s been keeping an eye on the Bristol property for several years, waiting for the moment when something could be done with it.
At first, he said, the 17-acre site “was pretty much tied up in some political stuff,” but when Art Ward took office he saw that a new alignment existed that would allow progress.
Parker said he began by talking in-depth to Jonathan Rosenthal, the city’s economic development director, and then moved on to discuss the project with many others.
The end result was the ability create a “life-work-play” concept for the site that met many of the suggestions the community has made for the property over the years, he said.
Parker said his own role is not to serve as a developer.
Instead, he said, “what we do is find opportunities” and then try to line up “the best developer, the best architect, the best builder” to make projects become a reality.
Parker said the plan is merely conceptual and none of the retailers, restaurants or other details are set in stone. They are mentioned merely to illustrate the ideas that would drive the final planning, he said.
“This is the kind of direction we see,” Parker said, using broad strokes rather than details that might be tossed aside.
“It’s the overall concept that’s important here,” he said.
The final plan would be worked out in concert with the city, the Bristol Downtown Development Corp., the state and the developer, Parker said.
“A lot of echoing back and forth” is needed before that can be done, he said.
The mix of retail, housing and offices is yet to be determined, Parker said, and so are the civic improvements contained in the plan.
Frank Johnson, the chairman of the BDDC, said that much depends on who’s expected to pay for what in any plan.
In any case, Parker said his role is largely over as soon as preferred developer is chosen.
He is, in essence, earning a living serving as a scout for developers, to find project possibilities and figure out what’s needed to make them happen.
Whether the Depot Square concept he proposed in Bristol will come to pass will become much more clear in the coming weeks.

Click here for 14-page PDF of the mall site plan submitted Friday by the L.A.-based Cielo Real Estate Investment Group, working for Heritage Financial Group of Florida, the developer

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Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

For this we gave up Ocean State Job Lot, a successful and popular store that actually brought people to downtown?

Anonymous said...

But what about the fenustration?

Anonymous said...

Aw, C'mon, leave poor Art alone.

Anonymous said...

yuppieville here we come

Anonymous said...

Bring back Couture, bring back Stortz, anybody.

Anonymous said...

Ronald F. Legrand for Mayor of Bristol.

Or the GOP should nominate him for city council candidate in 2009.

Anonymous said...

Steve is what you're trying to say here is your reporting and the Bristol Press aren't worthless after all?

I'm still not sold on that proposal.

Anonymous said...

May 31, 2008 2:31 PM:

I know! You're right!!

We should just help build OSJL a new building!

Anonymous said...

Hey 8:08, a paper's still useful at least for starting a fire, wrapping a fish or lining a bird cage.

Anonymous said...

This isn't Art's doing, since the whole deal was started by Couture and continued by Stortz. Art, of course, did nothing to stop it, but by the time he took office he didn't have a lot of choice -- either embrace it and make the best of it, or scrap the whole thing and start completely over, which wasn't much of an option. At this point, the direction is entirely set by the BDDC, which means Frank Johnson, John Lodovico, (Walgreens windows, anyone) John Leone (back room deals, anyone?). The rest, for the most part, are, sadly, a bunch of followers.

Anonymous said...

Go ahead and trash the local paper -- it's just like kicking your own dog. But you'll all be a sorry lot without the good ole Bristol Press when the time comes that it doesn't give you daily news coverage of our beloved Bristol anymore. As disappointing as the newspaper can be sometimes, just wait until you have to rely on spot coverage by the Courant, like all the other towns, or some dippy paper like the Observer or the late, grate(ing) Bristol Today by that giant of a writer, Dave Lepore. You won't be upset with your town government or anything else because you won't have a clue what the HELL is going on.

Anonymous said...

4:38 p.m. Yuppieville here we come?
You wish!
It's more like, let's turn the center of our city into a trailer park. Would that make you happy?

Anonymous said...

Fish wrap! Fish wrap! Fish wrap!

Anonymous said...

And I thought Kosta was the only questionable character in this mall fiasco.

Anonymous said...

May 31, 2008 8:44 PM:

You're a class "A" jerk. I'm mainly referring to your comments about Dave Lapore.

Anonymous said...

Here's the list of elected officials responsible for this fiasco:

1) Couture
2) Diamantis
3) Ellen Zoppo
4) Councilman Tom Levigne
5) Craig Minor
6) Ward

Anonymous said...

I'll take a trailer park over a ghetto any day.

Anonymous said...

May 31, 2008 8:44 PM:

You're a class "A" jerk. I'm mainly referring to your comments about Dave Lapore.

May 31, 2008 10:25 PM

If you're going to lash out at me over my accurate assessment of Dave Lepore, you could at least spell his name right. Guess that makes you a Class F dummy!

Anonymous said...

I think it's fair to say that a trailer park is pretty much a ghetto. They're both filled with poor people without much in the way of education or opportunity, working low end jobs, if they're working at all, or living on disability or a social program, struggling just to survive. Often their homes are in a dangerous place and it's not safe for their children to play outside or even walk home from school, or the school bus.

Anonymous said...

May 31, 2008 10:44 PM:

There's a few trailer parks in this area and they don't fit that desciption at all.

You're out of line.

Anonymous said...

Who is the Council Liasion to the BDDC?

Anonymous said...

Why? The city council is not in control of this - the BDDC is. There is nothing for the council to do until the BDDC votes to accept or reject the proposal.

cseguin said...

The 14 page proposal is fairly ambitious. It appears it would make a huge difference in the downtown area.

However, I wonder if the lack of easy highway access would be a barrier to attracting those restaurant and retail establishments referred to in the proposal.

It would be great to bring in those establishments and revitalize the area. Hopefully it works out.

Anonymous said...

The Council liason is supposedly there to be a link between the council and the BDDC.

Has that councilman done that, whoever he is?

Anonymous said...

this is a shame only 1 proposal for that big space who ever this group or company don't just take their offer right off the bat. i feel we have no takers because of the area down there. so to all the folks who were hoping to see some kind of shops etc.. it will never happen, that space will be used for car shows carnivals and farmers markets. what a waste of our hard earned money. but as we all know wasting our money is what the jerks at town hall do best.

Anonymous said...

as we all know wasting our money is what the jerks at town hall do best.

June 2, 2008 5:10 AM
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Bravo ...... Well put.

Anonymous said...

June 2, 2008 5:10 AM:

You're right on that one. But that's what you get whgen you elect tax and spend liberal Democrats like the ones who were behind buying the mall.

1) Zoppo
2) Levigne
3) McCauley
4) Couture
5) Ward
6) Diamantis
7) Minor

Anonymous said...

5:10 Why don't you shock us all and like something? You poor unhappy soul.

Anonymous said...

Hey dingbat when are you jerks going to realize that your opinion is just that. A useless opinion. Dave in "My opinion" was a good man no matter how tall he was. You should know that they pile it pretty high !

Anonymous said...

All this proposal is a regurgitation of what has been said by the people.

But is it realistic, is it doable AND is it sustainable??

Most of the companies mentioned won't be interested, and many are not expanding now anyway.

Anonymous said...

i have lived in bristol for over 30 yrs-it would benefit to have a store like the CHRISTMAS TREE SHOP-that store would bring in many many people anytime of the year-please consider it. the rents for an apartment in bristol are out of this world, how can anyone make ends meat living on a minimum wage or even $8.00 an hr it's not a wonder why there are so much crime, people are stealing from peter to pay paul

Bob Merrick said...

11:00 am. If you do some research you will find that the rents in this city are among the lowest in the area and Connecticut. In fact the low rents are part of the problem as to why we have so many rental properties that are not up to code. The landlord cannot afford to make the upgrades because many of the properties were purchased for prices that are not supported by the value of the rents received. In addition, many of the landlords have to provide the heat and hot water as part of the rent. With the high cost of fuel the landlord is the one eating the costs.

Nobody can live on $8.00 an hour today. That's why people need to place a high value on a solid educational program for Bristol's children. This isn't solely a money issue it's a support issue as well.

Christmas Tree shops, dollar stores, and other retailers that sell cheap stuff from China are not economic drivers and are not going to attract people to our community.

We must reach higher. With the high cost of fuel and energy Bristol has many advantages over other communities. We are very self-contained. We should look toward development that promotes that fact. We should offer development that promotes more business and services to meet the needs of our own residents and promotes job growth here in Bristol.

The concept of train service is forward-thinking. Yes, it does not seem viable now but if gas were to go to $8 per gallon people would be angry if no had one looked at train service in developing downtown. There is no harm in exploring that option now and developing plans around it.

Go to the parking lot on Todd Street and you will see that the lots are full as well as the buses. The city should consider other strategically located commuter lots/stations to promote greater use, reducing traffic, and making Bristol more attractive to families who work in Hartford.

Our biggest obstacle to progress is ourselves. There is so much negativity and mudslinging on this blog, in the local papers, as well as in public meetings that people considering becoming involved or developers considering projects in our city may be turned off feeling that their efforts would probably not be the best use of their time.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone tell me what happened with the Ronald LeGrand thing there in Bristol, Connecticut?

Lisa