Vacant Hartford diner won't be demolished - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Vacant Hartford diner won't be demolished

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A vacant building in Hartford won't be demolished. (WFSB) A vacant building in Hartford won't be demolished. (WFSB)
HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -

A vacant building in Hartford was once a popular diner in the capital city.

The Aetna diner was a fixture on Farmington Avenue for decades.

The building remained vacant for years, and the owner of the building wanted to tear it down and put something new in its place. But, late Wednesday afternoon, the developer withdrew those plans.

In its glory, the stainless steel diner, which later became the Comet, was a trendy hang out spot. 

Celebrities such as Zsa Zsa Gabor and Telly Savalas were once served at the Comet.

"A lot of people know this has a place to go meet people and eat or drink,” Frank Hagaman with Hartford Preservation Alliance said.

It’s become more than just nostalgic for Hagaman. He’s been trying to stop the owner from tearing it down.  

Recently, the city designated the section of Farmington Avenue, where the dinner is, as an historic district. The diner was built in 1948.

That means, in order to take it down, the owner needed to get permission from the city's historic preservation commission.

“We have no idea of why it has remained empty for the 13 years it has, but what we do know is that the owner wants to get rid of the historic structure and they think they can encourage a big box developer,” Hagaman said.

The owner is now 97 years old and is represented by developer Wayne Benjamin. He said this is about economics. Taxes and insurance are more than $60,000 a year.

There's limited parking and seating. They've tried to rent and sell with no success. Benjamin said those interested also want an adjacent vacant Dunkin Donuts, which they own as well, and tear down both of them.

It's not clear why the developer withdrew plans.

Eyewitness News reached out to the developer to find out why the owner has withdrawn their demolition plans, but there has been no response yet.

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