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Ribicoff Seniors Come Home
by Brianne Bowen | Aug 15, 2013 4:47 pm
Wearing smiley-face earrings and a pin of scissors on her shirt, Cynthia N. Rogers cut the ceremonial ribbon at the opening of a new public housing development in the shadow of West Rock. In the process Rogers said goodbye to her problem-ridden public-housing complex—but not to her old neighbors, who have moved with her right down the street into the new building.
Rogers, 55, moved out of the old Ribicoff Cottages complex, which sits at the edge of public-housing projects behind Southern Connecticut State University near the Hamden town line.
The housing authority has gradually torn down the old projects and built new ones, like the 60,000-square-foot, 47-apartment “Wilmont Crossing at West Rock” that Rogers and her neighbors helped officials inaugurate Thursday.
Unlike the neglected Ribicoff Cottages – where neighbors have complained of black mold, overgrown grass and bushes, crumbling sidewalks, and flooding of storm drains for years – the new Wilmont Crossing provides spacious, well-lit apartments. From one side of the building, tenants look out onto the forests near West Rock. On the other, they can see children playing at the next door Brennan-Rogers School.
The best part, Rogers said, is simply that the building is new.
Wilmont Crossing opens as part of the $200 million West Rock Revitalization Project, which aims to replace rundown housing complexes like Brookside, Rockview, and Ribicoff. Construction at Brookside finished in 2012; the new homes are fully occupied. The first phase of Rockview’s redevelopment started this spring.
The building was designed by O’Riordan Migani Architects and built by Giordano Construction. The project cost more than $18 million.
Wilmont Crossing has filled 17 of its apartments so far, with the rest of the tenants expected to move in by Sept. 30, said Patricia Perugini (pictured), executive project manager for the city’s housing authority. All units will be occupied by seniors and those with disabilities. More than 200 seniors added their names to the wait list to move into the building, Perugini said.
The first floor of the four-story building has been set aside for businesses to serve the otherwise isolated community near West Rock.
Abu Baker and his wife Violet plan to open a mini-mart in 2,600 of the 9,200 sq. ft of commercial space. The couple ran a similar store in the location back when the lot was filled by a dilapidated strip mall.The couple closed the convenience store in 2005; they said they are excited to be back. “We’re going to be here for 20 years,” Baker said. “We’ll give it to our sons, our kids – they can run it.” Baker said the market will have produce and a deli, as well as popular options like pizza. “The whole nine yards. You don’t have to leave the area,” he said.
Developers want to add a co-operative pharmacy – similar to the model of the market at 360 State Street – as well as a hair salon or consignment store. Perugini said the housing authority is talking to potential operators of those stores. The plan is to fill the space within six months to a year.
Evelyna Allen, 91, said she wished the housing authority had waited to move seniors in until construction fully finished. “The fire alarm keeps going off at 2 or 3 in the morning,” she said. “They shouldn’t have moved me in because it’s not done yet.”
Mary Woodberry, 71, moved from the Brookside apartments to a one bedroom apartment on Wilmont’s second floor. She’s particularly happy about the apartment’s bathtub – she didn’t have one before – and said the apartment is “much better in every way” than her old home.
Each apartment contains one or two bedrooms, a living room, a bathroom, and a kitchen, each large enough to accommodate walkers, scooters, and wheelchairs. The apartments’ large windows allow even those seniors who cannot stand to see outside. All of the natural light is intended to help seniors keep a positive outlook and heal faster, said one of the building’s architects, Joan O’Riordan.
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