The owner sells the oldest surviving Federalist commercial building in the area to her tenant.
When they raise their glasses to mark the occasion, they toast not each other or to the deal they have just signed, but to “202 years of beauty in Fair Haven. May it go on.”
The champagne toast and paen to historic Fair Haven occurred this week on the third floor of King’s Block at the corner of Grand Avenue and Front Street, where architect Karin Patriquin was marking her purchase of the 1816 building from her landlord Carol Cheney.
Cheney became a tenant of the building in 1986. She ran her marketing firm there, bought the building in 1997, and began renting to Patriquin in 2014.
Patriqin, whose offices previously were on Church Street downtown, discovered the area as she worked on the Friends Center for Children, at the top of Grand Avenue, which opened in 2013
As her firm, Patriquin Architects, has grown, she has gradually rented more space in the historic building. Preservationists saved the building from bulldozers in the 1970s, when history-blind city planners slated the former bakery, restaurant, and brothel for demolition as it was seen as in the path of an approach to a gigantic bridge, never built, to span the Quinnipiac.
“I started loving the building,” Patriquin said. With her business expanding and staff now reaching seven, Patriquin approached Cheney last year to rent another floor. Cheney responded, “‘Actually would you like to buy it?”
The plan is for Cheney, who does the lion’s share of her marketing work for independent schools, to remain a renter on the third floor, as Patriquin will take over the first two floors.
Patriquin said the building is unusual in being both historic and having open spaces, ideal for architectural studio space. She plans to open up the second floor space, gain some height in the ceiling, insulate, and try to make the building as air tight and energy efficient as possible.
As the landlord turned tenant, the tenant turned landlord and the staffers sipped raspberry wine and champagne, Patriquin’s staffer Tom Beech said the last office he worked in was massive. “This is more human scale, personal,” he said.
Max Ballardo said the building is fun to work in, and has character.
“It’s always attracted creative professions,” Patriquin said.
Cheney, who moved into the building when what’s now Quinnipiac River Park across the street was still a junkyard, underscored how working in the space engenders a relationship with the river and fosters a reflective, productive atmosphere.
Patriquin is working on NHR Properties’ “Heights on the River,” a market-rate development spanning the entire first block on the east side of the Quinnipiac River. Her other current work includes building two buildings for the nearby facilty for Norm Bloom & Son’s oyster business.
When one of her staffers pointed out that an early use of King’s Block was oystering, she said, “We’re coming full circle.”