The 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.
The 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.
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.