The 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.
In 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).
The 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.”