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Latest mixed-use building proposal for downtown Meriden unveiled

Record Journal October 16, 2015

City officials are proposing a transfer of properties between the city and Meriden Housing Authority in order to build a mixed-use, mixed-income housing development at the corner of Mill and State streets. The move, if approved, would enable the groups to move forward with the demolition of the Mills Memorial Apartment complex and the extension of the flood control basin downtown.

The proposal includes transferring two city-owned properties — a parking lot at 177 State St. and the adjacent park at 62 Cedar St. — to the MHA and the Philadelphia-based development firm Pennrose Properties. The plan also includes transferring the MHA-owned parcel at 144 Pratt St. to the city. Currently, two low-rise Mills buildings stand at 144 Pratt.

Should the transfers, as well as future tax credit program applications, be approved, the MHA and Pennrose plan to build a four-story, 96,700 square-foot mixed-use, mixed-income building with 75 apartment units and 6,500 square feet of ground floor commercial space.

“It’s exciting,” MHA Executive Director Robert Cappelletti said of the proposal. “The MHA and the city have been working on this for many years, even before my time, and it’s finally moving forward.”

The proposed building would span the parcels at 177 and 161 State St., the latter of which the MHA already owns.

Twenty-three of the 75 apartment units would serve as replacement units for residents displaced as the existing apartment buildings are torn down.

The plan to tear down the aging, outdated apartment buildings has been a focus of a city and MHA Choice Neighborhoods planning group.

Cappelletti said the MHA already has approval to start taking town two of the five existing apartment buildings and residents in those first two low-rises at 144 Pratt St. have already begun moving out, he said.

The city purchased the parking lot on State Street for $225,000 at the same time it purchased the former Record-Journal building at 11 Crown St., both with a Sustainable Communities Challenge Grant furnished by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department. The grant dictates that any purchases be used ultimately to develop housing units, 60 percent of which must be considered affordable housing.

This means that in addition to the 23 Mills replacement units, 37 units would be affordable units, and the remaining 15 offered at market rate, said Juliet Burdelski, city economic development director.

“The development plan being put forward by Pennrose is very exciting,” Burdelski said. “It reflects months of planning and input from dozens, if not hundreds of residents and key stakeholders.

“The building itself incorporates a mix of uses that is consistent with the city’s (Transit-Oriented District) plan and the placement of the building on the site takes full advantage of views into the new park,” she said. “This is a key step in the redevelopment of the Mills public housing project and approval by the Council will allow the developer Pennrose to seek state and federal financing for the project.”

Two brownfields grants already awarded to the city from the state will be used to assess and clean up environmental issues at 177 State St. before it’s transferred, Burdelski said.

“That process is underway with testing and a cleanup plan being put together by our consultant,” the New Haven-based AECom, she said.

As part of the proposed transfers, the MHA will also turn over its property at 144 Pratt St., which runs adjacent to the existing Meriden Hub park, and is located within the 100-year floodplain downtown.

“This will expand the Hub park and really push the potential for development for the city,” Cappelletti said.

Pennrose Properties was also chosen by the city to undertake further development at the park.

If the properties are transferred, the MHA still needs to apply for a low-income housing tax credit program through the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority. Cappelletti said those would be released in the spring, and if that’s approved as well, “we could have a groundbreaking by next fall if all goes well,” he said.

To read the full article on the Record Journal website, click here.