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To the Editor:
Several years ago, the Sisters of Saint Joseph informed their Park Road neighbors that they no longer needed such a large facility and home – a home that they have occupied at the corner of Park and Prospect Avenue since 1898.
As their order declined in number, operating costs for such a large, under-utilized building became a financial burden for the Sisters. They shared with us that they were committed to finding a buyer for the property who would appreciate and value their home’s uniqueness.
Specifically, they sought a buyer who would preserve the beauty of the existing structures, provide the Sisters with the opportunity to keep their home and retain ownership of the west end of convent building, preserve open spaces and the cemetery, and be a benefit to the Park Road Neighborhood.
Since then, two proposals that met these criteria have been proposed and approved by the town and enthusiastically supported by the Park Road Association. Unfortunately, given the high costs of preserving the building and open spaces, both projects have faced severe financing challenges and the most recent proposal, One Park Road, is in danger of not going forward.
The demise of One Park Road would be a terrible blow to the ongoing resurgence and revitalization of the Park Road Neighborhood.
The Sisters’ property at the corner of Park and Prospect is a critical gateway location for Park Road and the Town of West Hartford. Their home is the first property many see when they enter our town. Given the uncertainty of the abutting former ShopRite building and the commercial nature of Prospect Avenue, One Park Road would provide a needed buffer to encroaching industrial and large scale retail looking to expand to our neighborhood.
One Park Road would also provide much needed housing for young professionals and empty nesters looking to downsize. These new residents will provide important new customers for Park Road’s restaurants, businesses and Playhouse on Park and will add to the vitality and vibrancy of our neighborhood. One Park Road will also increase foot traffic and business on Park Road without any major impact on neighborhood parking.
Under the new proposed tax agreement with the Town, One Park Road would also provide needed workforce housing for teachers, first responders, essential workers and others earning 80% of area median income.
One Park Road will also generate substantial new tax revenue for the town on a property that has been tax-exempt for well over 100 years. Under the proposed tax agreement, the Town of West Hartford will collect over $4 million in new tax revenue over the first ten years of operation, with revenue collections increasing thereafter.
We are grateful the Sisters have been so diligent and patient in securing what’s best for the Park Road Neighborhood. We also realize that they have sacrificed a great deal in the process, both financially and emotionally.
Over the last ten years, they’ve seen their population decline as they’ve carried the burden of heating and maintaining over 130,000 square feet of empty space. Many are now in their late 80s and have called Park Road their home for most of their lives.
In addition to the many benefits to our neighborhood, the sale and development of this property will provide the Sisters the opportunity to stay in their home, lessen their overhead and support themselves for the remainder of their important lives.
For these reasons we strongly support the proposed tax agreement between the Town of West Hartford and One Park Road and encourage the Town Council to approve the measure.
Playhouse on Park
Johnny C. Paindiris
Effie’s Place Restaurant