Tagliatelas double down on New London
EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story attributed quotes to the wrong Tagliatela family member in some places, gave an incorrect location for the Tagliatelas' cottage project in Maine and may have given the wrong impression about the status of its Canal Crossing project, which is still under construction.
Not many families have had a greater effect on New London over the past decade than the New Haven-based Tagliatelas, who funded the Harbour Towers condominium complex on Bank Street, initiated the City Flats program to renovate historical homes in downtown and now have on the table a major new proposal called Shipway 221 on Howard Street.
Yet until recently the Tagliatelas were not widely known in the city. They largely were represented locally by Tony Silvestri, a project manager who became well known for his ability to garner popular and political support for developments the Tagliatelas signed off on.
But with the $40 million Shipway condo proposal involving as many as 180 units, the Tagliatelas are diving into the city like never before by attending meetings, making speeches and pushing a marketing campaign they call "the new New London."
"We've grown to love this area," said Louis Tagliatela Jr., who stopped by for an interview at The Day with daughter Lauren, the fourth generation in the family's company Franklin Construction.
Tagliatela and his brother Stephen, who, along with sister Tricia, constitute the business's partners, have said in previous meetings to introduce their plans that New London has embraced their ideas like no other city in the state. And the Tagliatelas have compiled quite a portfolio of projects over the years, from their ownership of Saybrook Point Inn to apartment buildings in New Haven County to management of several apartment buildings.
One of the company's most recent undertakings has been a 263-unit seasonal cottage community in Arundel, Maine. The Cape Arundel Cottage Preserve project calls for small homes in densely settled areas that cannot be inhabited in the off season from the beginning of November to the end of April.
But where the family really tries to differentiate itself is in its property management division. Tagliatela said the division already has put into effect or plans, at a nearly 400-unit Canal Crossing apartment complex in Hamden, to create a community feeling with special events such as pool tournaments and build-your-own-pizza nights.
"We want to bring that down here," he said. "We feel people really have more of a sense of connection when they feel like they're valued and where they belong."
The Tagliatelas date their lineage and business to 1917, when their Italian immigrant grandfather Francesco, a home builder back in his home country, settled in New Haven. A family in town soon invited him to build them a home, and Frank, as he came to be known, didn't hesitate.
"Although lacking in money and equipment, Frank was not lacking in inventiveness," according to a company history. "He needed to dig the foundation, so with a hacksaw he made a straight cut down the front of a wheelbarrow. He then began hammering until he formed a sharp "V" in the front. He hitched the wheelbarrow to a horse and began digging."
Single-family homes gave way to more complex projects when Frank's son Louis took over the family business. Louis, who had married Mary Pegnataro of the Pegnataro supermarket chain, began building churches, schools, ice skating rinks and hotels, doing work for both Yale and Quinnipiac universities.
"Having won a contract to build a multistory building in downtown New Haven, Lou was the first contractor in the area to use a technique called lift slab construction in which concrete floors were poured on the ground then hoisted into position starting with the uppermost floor," according to the company history. "The process proceeded flawlessly unlike the ill-fated lift slab project L'Ambiance Plaza, built decades later in Bridgeport, which due to a lack of care led to the loss of (28) lives."
All of Mary and Louis's children, Lou Jr., Tricia and Stephen, now are associated with the company. But in the early 1980s, after completing major projects including medical buildings and a 10-story complex for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the family decided to get out of general contracting.
"It was so competitive," Lou Tagliatela recalled. "Every project had up to 30 bidders, and there were unions and strikes."
Winding down their general contracting business in the mid-1980s, the family decided to build and acquire apartments and condominiums for themselves, creating the management division currently overseen by Louis Jr.
Previously, the family had built North Haven Health & Racquet, which Tricia currently manages. The 70,000-square-foot club features six tennis courts, five racquetball courts and a fitness center.
More than a decade later, in 1989, the Tagliatelas entered the accommodations business, opening Saybrook Point Inn in Old Saybrook with Stephen in charge. The property now includes a top-rated restaurant, Fresh Salt, as well as a marina, spa and two luxury guest houses.
"We're not a family that does a lot of flash," Lou Tagliatela said. "We believe your actions speak for themselves."
Stephen Tagliatela currently is chairman of the board at Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, which is affiliated with the University of New Haven. He also is a member of the UNH Board of Governors and is a director of a multimillion-dollar family foundation that supports the university's Tagliatela College of Engineering, as well as the Tagliatela School of Business at Albertus Magnus College and other charitable endeavors.
The family also has made major investments in green technology, including at 10 of their apartment rooftops. Saybrook Point Marina was the first in Connecticut to be designated a clean marina.
Moving east, the family in 2008 made its foray into the city with New London Harbour Towers, a 52-unit luxury condo project. It opened in the midst of the deepest recession in three-quarters of a century, which had house sales crawling to a near stop. Some of the higher priced upper floors with water views moved quickly, but other unit sales slowed, so the Tagliatelas tried something different: They offered to help people who wanted to move to Bank Street by buying their house.
"Every deal was different," recalled Tagliatela, who credited Silvestri with coming up with the idea. "We had 37 houses to sell."
But the Tagliatelas' plans were just heating up.
"Discover(ing) in New London an opportunity to revitalize the city by acquiring non-performing properties," they next moved on to City Flats, a project to buy up decrepit houses in back of Harbour Towers to try to enhance sales there.
The project, which currently has about two dozen units completed or in the works, eventually went on to win a major award for preservation from Connecticut Main Street. Architect Bill Crosskey is working on another City Flats project at 17 Brewer St. that would involve nine new units funded by the Tagliatelas.
And now the family just a few weeks ago announced another major undertaking, Shipway 221, aimed at millennials being hired at nearby Electric Boat and including amenities such as a pool, community garden, fire pits, a roof deck and underground parking. A launch party for the project is being planned 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. March 29 at the 221 Howard St. site.