Clock Shop Lofts Get $800K Clean-Up Loan

CROSSKEY ARCHITECTSThomas Breen photoThe developers of a new 133-unit low-income and artist loft housing complex in Wooster Square will get $800,000 in city-managed federal funds to help pay for part of the site’s estimated $6.6 million environmental remediation.

That was the result of a unanimous vote by Tuesday morning’s Development Commission meeting, which was held on the steps outside of City Hall. The commissioners voted unanimously to approve a resolution that will allow the city to loan $800,000 in federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funds to Taom Heritage New Haven, LLC, the Portland, Oregon-based developers of the new Clock Shop Lofts apartment complex at 133 Hamilton St.

This was the final vote needed to approve the grant.

(The meeting was held outside of City Hall because, after the vote, the commissioners went on a driving tour of new developments as led by city Economic Development Administrator Matthew Nemerson.)

This loan “is meant to be extremely flexible with the goal of getting the site cleaned up,” city Business Development Officer Clayton Williams told the commissioners.

The $800,000 federal subsidy will come from the Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund (BRLF), which the EPA set up with the city in 2010 to provide loans and grants for the remediation of eligible contaminated properties in New Haven.

Williams said that the city has tapped into the fund in years past to support the remediation of the Rev. Boise Kimber’s First Calvary Baptist Church on Dixwell Avenue with a $250,000 grant in 2015 and the Winchester Lofts apartment complex at the old Winchester Arms factory with a $250,000 grant in 2013. He said that those two prior projects were supported through grants, while the $800,000 earmarked for the Clock Shop project is the first loan that the city will be making through the BRLF.

Williams said that the $800,000 BRLF loan will carry 0 percent interest for 30 years. The developer will be required to make annual payments of $26,667 back to the city starting in 2023, which is the first year that the Clock Shop Lofts project is expected to have adequate cash flow to commence with the repayments.

Click here for a copy of the resolution approved by the development commissioners on Tuesday. Click here for an approval memorandum with background information on the loan and the Clock Shop Lofts project as written by Williams, who also serves as the city’s BRLF fund manager, Nemerson, and city BRLF Project Manager Helen Rosenberg.

Markeshia Ricks photoIn May of this year, alders approved a seven-year tax abatement for the 133 Hamilton St. development, freezing the property’s annual tax bill at $51,591 for that time period.

They also required the developers to reserve all 133 of the units for residents making 80 percent or less of the area median income (AMI), defined as $70,480 out of an $88,100 benchmark for a family of four, and to limit the number of units reserved explicitly for artists to 44.

Williams said that the alders also signed off in May on the city granting $400,000 in city funds towards the environmental remediation of the 150,000 square-foot old clock factory complex.

“The City of New Haven has been seeking an appropriate development at the site for decades,” Williams, Rosenberg and Nemerson wrote in the loan approval memorandum. “Its former uses, particularly as a clock manufacturing facility, have resulted in contamination by a variety of materials, including radium, PCBs, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), extractable petroleum hydrocarbons (ETPH), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), and metals.”

Williams said that the estimated clean up of the entire project will cost $6.6 million. In addition to the $400,000 city and the new $800,000 city-managed loan of federal dollars, the developers have also agreed to contribute $1.4 million of their own money towards environmental remediation, and have secured a $4 million, 20-year, 1-percent-interest loan from the state Department of Economic Development (DECD).

Thomas Breen photoThe terms of the state loan allow for $2 million to be forgiven upon completion of the environmental remediation and abatement of the project, and for another $2 million to be forgiven upon the completion of the lease-up of 80 percent of the complex’s 133 affordable-housing units.

The city and BRLF funds, Williams said, will be distributed as reimbursements to the developers after they have successfully completed the environmental remediation of the site.

“We need to get this property cleaned up,” Williams said.

“I think this is fantastic that this is finally happening,” said Development Commission Chair Pedro Soto.  “I’m for it.”

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posted by: Noteworthy on October 9, 2018  12:22pm

Taxpayer’s Clocked Again Notes:

1. Thirty years of zero percent money - no payments for years and years. It’s Christmas.

2. No wait - there’s more - an unreal cap on property taxes and years and years before they pay their fair share.

3. But, hey…it’s for the artists.

4. And then, quick, load the bus for an economic tour by the King of Giveways Matt Nemerson.

5. I hope this turns out better than Ninth Square - the screw-over to beat all screw-overs.

posted by: concerned_neighbor on October 9, 2018  12:40pm

And all those low income apartment dwellers won’t be buying art or otherwise contributing to the economy.  The market doesn’t want this development because it can’t work without hand outs and giveaways.

Shame.

posted by: Patricia Kane on October 9, 2018  1:24pm

It’s simply amazing how funds are found for some projects and not for others.
Why didn’t the city find resources for Wendy Hamilton to set up a building to house people in need with services on the ground floor? Wendy put $1million on the table and the City looked away.
How many vacant buildings are there in New Haven?
How many people are sleeping in shelters and on benches?
Does any one in City government care?

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on October 9, 2018  1:48pm

Concerned_neighbor, last time I checked, low-income apartment dwellers buy groceries and clothes and make other contributions to the local economy. And the private market will not, on its own, develop this site because it is literally radioactive.

Patricia, different pots of money are available for different purposes. This pot is available for cleaning up brownfields. There is a real need for housing and supportive services for homeless individuals. But this is an issue for the Appropriations Committee at the state legislature, rather than the city’s Development Commission.

posted by: Patricia Kane on October 9, 2018  1:52pm

Thanks for the suggestion, Kevin.
The money may be at the State level, but why doesn’t the City partner with people who want to contribute?
I’m stumped.

posted by: heightster77 on October 9, 2018  1:53pm

Don’t worry about Kimber. Rev. Boise always seems to get his.

posted by: concerned_neighbor on October 9, 2018  4:18pm

If New Haven wants to spend like it has been spending AND increase revenue to pay for the financial mismanagement of the past it needs to attract more tax paying clients and not attract more consumers of social services. 100 more low income families may buy groceries but they are a net drag on the bottom line.

New Haven needs land owners who can pay the full freight of taxes and businesses that pay those rents to those landowners and resident who will patronize those businesses. Many businesses have left the city to go where the money is - the suburbs. The residents followed. The attendance at the parade is another reminder of that. If adjacent municipalities were even slightly better managed (they are not) flight from New Haven would be worse.

State assistance was never meant to be a permanent solution. People need to move to where the jobs are and not stay where there is no prospect for reasonable employment in the future. The cash assistance and the housing vouchers (which inflate the rental market for those who don’t qualify for such vouchers) don’t help and instead create generational poverty, structural problems that the City should not expand.

What is better, limiting benefits and reducing cheap housing to encourage migration to where the jobs are or condemning people to a lifetime and generations of poverty? I’m thinking the former and not the latter.

posted by: Merryl on October 10, 2018  9:07am

$88,100 is the area median income for the state of Connecticut. A more appropriate measure for “affordable”  housing would be to use the area median income of New Haven, which is approximately $36,000.

Others cities and other states are finding ways to use the more appropriate and accurate AMI and still find ways for developers to make a profit and provide housing for working class families. It is imperative for the City of New Haven to make sure that this happens in New Haven as well.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on October 10, 2018  5:45pm

Merryl, as the name indicates, AMI is a regional rather than state statistic. Much of the funding for projects like this comes from the federal department of Housing and Urban Development, which uses AMI to determine affordability. I am not aware of any HUD programs that use city median income for this purpose.

In most of the country, using AMI to measure affordability is reasonable. Outside of New England, cities grew geographically over time, keeping middle-income residents in the city’s boundaries. In contrast, New England towns shrank over time, contributing to concentrated poverty. (New Haven once extended from Milford to Branford.)