Farnam Courts Remake Goes To Plan B

Allan Appel PhotoThe feds said no to sending $30 million, but a plan to raze and remake the troubled Farnam Courts is proceeding, anyway.

The Housing Authority of New Haven (HANH) plans to go ahead with tearing down the projects, moving some families to other parts of town, building a new complex for remaining tenants—and meanwhile look for money in some new places.

The evolving alternate plans for the World War Two-era family development on Grand Avenue and Hamilton emerged last week’s regular meeting of the HANH Board of Commissioners.

Allan Appel PhotoThe aging development and its narrow, perilous entranceways, isolated and sandwiched in a light industrial zone between a highway and a men’s shelter, has long been plagued by crime.

For that reason, HANH Executive Director Karen DuBois-Walton and her team prepared an ambitious application for a federal grant to raze and transform the 240-apartment complex. That plan includes “scattering” larger families to other locations in the city; rebuilding a single multi-story building on site, an echo of the 360 State Street tower; and attracting retail on the first floor of the new buildings.

That vision of a transformation was based on receiving $30 million in a Choice Neighborhood grant from the Housing and Urban Development department.

Click here and here for detail on the plan HANH submitted in the spring.

And click here for an article on the kinds of problems that have plagued Farnam.

Since then, HANH received word from the feds that they have denied the grant application.

HANH spokesperson Jasmin Franjul said HANH will re-apply next year for the CHOICE grant, the current equivalent of the HOPE VI grants that helped HANH transform the Elm Haven projects into Monterey Place and revived the drug-plagued brick buildings along Fair Haven’s waterfront to become the award-winning new iteration of the Quinnipiac Terrace development.

These are grants designed to work in the larger context of transforming not only shelter but neighborhoods, on a liveable, mixed-income scale.

At a presentation to the commissioners last Tuesday evening, HANH special projects staffer Patricia Perugini said the $30 million in federal bucks notwithstanding, HANH will proceed to work with city planners “to redo the streetscape” of Farnam, including a six to seven-story building on Grand, as part of a general rethinking of the Mill River zone in which Farnam sits.

In the meantime HANH has purchased the old Cott bottling plant at Chatham and Ferry streets in Fair Haven (pictured) for development as one of the sites for future houses for current Farnam families.

Officials also plan to relocate some of the families into houses to be built in a second phase at Eastview Terrace, near Bella Vista.

On Tuesday night, the commissioners passed two resolutions authorizing money for architectural drawings, construction document preparation, environmental assessments, and other “pre-development” costs for the project.

HANH has found a partner in the project in Trinity New Haven, LLC, the entity that has helped it rebuild its Howard Avenue Rowe apartments.

For now the HANH board has approved $25 million for the project—wherever that money ends up coming from. HANH is looking several places for that money in addition to trying again for a federal CHOICE grant.

It is applying for to the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA) for low-income housing tax credits, which often account for 30 to 40 percent of a project’s costs, said Franjul.

HANH is also applying to the state’s Department of Community and Economic Development and to the Federal Home Loan Bank for financing the first off-site development.

The recalibrated and reconfigured Farnam is still in the conceptual design stage in terms of the mix of buildings and locations.  Franjul said current thinking is that of Farnam’s current 240 families, 60 will move to other sites; 180 will remain on site, but in new buildings, with new community space, and, it is hoped, new retail and amenities nearby.

Commissioner Erik Clemons asked if the community has shown any resistance to the plan.

“Current residents are excited with the plans. So many things can’t be fixed within the existing site,” DuBois-Walton replied.

The current Farnam will be demolished. If plans go well and funding is secured for the on-site construction, relocation could commence as late 2013 and demolition start in early or late 2014.

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posted by: FromTheHill on November 26, 2012  9:47am

Echo of 360 State or Echo of the old Elm Haven High Rise?
This will still be surrounded by dead end steeets and the Highway will always be there.

posted by: anonymous on November 26, 2012  11:00am

Housing families next to a highway is not a great idea. This is an opportunity to create a healthy neighborhood, that is being wasted.

This article shows what the site looked like in 1934 and what it could look like if the primary focus was to increase economic development and reconnect neighborhoods:

posted by: PH on November 26, 2012  11:52am

I don’t understand why anyone would want to live where Farnam Courts is located.  And I don’t understand why anyone would try to keep housing there going forward.  The location is miserable for residential living—perhaps commercial facilities could succeed, but it is just wrong to plant people that close to the highway, that cut off from other residential neighborhoods, and maintaining isolated poverty.  I applaud the tearing down of Farnam, but I really wish there was a better plan for relocating the families there.

posted by: streever on November 26, 2012  1:36pm

The City Planners would be wise to look at the plans prepared on Downtown New Haven for an idea of how to actually do this.

I’m sure that the people at City Plan are intelligent, dedicated, and hard-working, yet they have presided over any number of poor plans. Perhaps it is time to examine why this is, and what they can do going forward to stop making poor decisions?

posted by: FromTheHill on November 26, 2012  1:42pm

A new generation of bad urban planning.  Did New Haven learn anything from the model cities years?  And what about the Church Street South housing complex. Oh yes, that would be prime real estate once demolished.

posted by: HhE on November 26, 2012  9:42pm

First the good news:  the Federal Government is too smart to throw good money after bad.

Now the bad news:  that is not stopping HANH.

posted by: anonymous on November 26, 2012  11:46pm

HhE, you are correct. Why would President Obama give that kind of money to New Haven after the Board of Aldermen threw out his offer of hundreds of millions of free dollars to rebuild our ever crumbling bus and transit infrastructure (ironically, one of the only things that could have saved this forlorn site).

Any urban planner worth his or her salt can easily name 100 affordable, mixed-income, mixed-use, well-located, and well-designed housing proposals from other U.S. cities that make this project look like a proposal from Pyongyang.

posted by: Wooster Squared on November 28, 2012  1:58pm

Why on earth would the feds be dumb enough to give this town more money after they turned down a Streetcar and Transit Grant, a very generous grant that many other cities gladly would have taken?

Perhaps this is a surprise to our current group of alderman, but the federal government doesn’t like being given the middle finger when they offer 90% matching funds worth close to half a million dollars.

posted by: robn on November 28, 2012  2:09pm


There’s a half mile stretch of East Rock and another half mile stretch of Wooster Square which are adjacent to the highway and which are enjoyed by occupants.
Farnam Courts is a bad place because of clustered poverty and the inability of the housing authority to keep criminal elements out of the complex.

posted by: anonymous on November 28, 2012  5:33pm

Not exactly, Robn. Those areas of East Rock and Wooster Square are all directly connected to Downtown via a number of beautiful, tree lined streets, some of them even powered with solar powered lighting. Not the case with Farnam Courts, where you basically can only go in one direction and have to duck under a highway to do so.

posted by: robn on November 28, 2012  5:44pm


If your argument is about downtown connectivity, there are many neighborhoods in New Haven which are farther disconnected from downtown and which are highly appreciated by their residents.
(I’m not saying the proposed plan is a good one…I’m just critiquing your argument that adjacency to the highway is the ultimate negative)