The former Hill Central Community Cooperative has a new owner and a new plan for revitalization that allows its current residents to remain in place and ultimately get new units.
The City Plan Commission voted unanimously this past Thursday night in support of two site plans for the redevelopment of the 72-unit complex of elderly, Section 8 subsidized townhomes on Button, Putnam, Portsea, and Dewitt streets and Washington and Howard avenues (behind Roberto Clemente Leadership Academy). The plans will increase the number of units in the complex to 114 and add some market-rate apartments in the process, though the majority of the units will continue to be subsidized.
The plans were among four that commissioners approved Thursday night that advanced projects that could ultimately net the city 300 new units of affordable housing in the next few years. That is if the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA) is amenable. Like another proposed housing project on the Route 34 Connector, this one is counting on CHFA to kick in tax credits to make it feasible.
Three limited liability corporations — Hill Central, JGE, and JGM Realty — purchased the former Hill Central Coop for $3.7 million back in June 2017, according to city land records. (Read more about the courtship of that sale here.) It was the latest of a series of housing coops that have been taken over in recent years by private developers.
Construction of the new Hill Central is expected in two phases. Hence the two site plans.
The first phase calls for the construction of 64 new units—24 of which will be one-bedroom units. Twenty-two of those one-bedrooms will be age-restricted elderly housing apartments, six two-bedroom, 19 three-bedroom, and 14 four-bedroom apartments. All that happens on a parcel that is on Howard Avenue. The second phase will construct another 50 apartments in seven two- and three-story residential buildings. The mix of apartments breaks down to 50 two- and three-bedroom apartments.
Rick Ross III, the agent for Hill Central LLC, told commissioners Thursday that the complex is being redeveloped in two phases to allow current residents to continue to live on site while new apartments are being constructed.
“That allows us to, through attrition, vacate a few units, then take down the balance of the units and move folks into new units on site so they never have to leave the site,” said Ross, who also is the president of the Branford-based firm that will manage the property. “By doing this in two phases and stages within the phase we’ve managed to keep everyone on the site.”
Attorney Lisa Feinberg said the project is designed to “revitalize this established community and allow folks to stay and age in place.” She noted that the existing three and four-bedroom, townhouse-style apartments are too big for a lot of the elderly residents who currently live in them. By increasing the number of smaller units on site, these residents can move into more manageable size apartments without leaving their community. She said the 72 three- and four-bedroom apartments, which will be brand new, will still be townhouses and will continue to be subsidized.
Feinberg said to maintain the affordability required by CHFA, 80 percent of the apartments will be reserved for those making 25, 50, and 60 percent of the area median income, the remaining 20 percent of apartments will be rented at market rate. If the project gets its application into CHFA by the end of October, Feinberg anticipated that first phase construction could start by summer 2019. The second phase would begin a couple of years later.
The redeveloped property will have 61 parking spaces, though 53 are required. It also will have bike racks that will accommodate about 32 bikes. Ross said all of the parking spaces will be contained within the site.
Ross told commissioners that the plan was the result of multiple community management team meetings where the plans were presented as they progressed and received well by neighbors and current residents.
“This has been here since 1980 and this will be a significant investment in the neighborhood,” he said. “There will be new buildings…and a significant improvement without creating a much larger real estate façade.”