The $5 million loan will help finance the construction of 616 New Park, a striking $ 20 million mixed-use commercial and residential development planned by Trout Brook Realty Advisors in Elmwood.
By Ronni Newton
The State Bond Commission’s approval Tuesday of a $5 million, low-interest loan to help Trout Brook Realty Advisors build 616 New Park was an important and critical milestone in moving forward with final plans for the $20 million project’s groundbreaking.
George Howell, who serves as CEO of Trout Brook Realty Advisors as well as executive director of the West Hartford Housing Authority, said that he was counting on the project receiving the $5 million Department of Housing loan. “We fully expected and were told we were going to get it, but until it’s appropriated it’s not in place,” he said Thursday.
The State Bond Commission approved a total of $188.6 million in new borrowing on Tuesday, and given Connecticut’s highly-publicized fiscal woes, none of the proposed funding could be considered a guarantee.
“I believe that the strength of the support we had – as the first and only proposed project that will benefit CTFastrak – made a difference,” Howell said.
The project will be a cornerstone of the transit-oriented development planned for the New Park Avenue corridor, and will be located on the site of a long-vacant former Pontiac dealership site directly north of the Elmwood CTfastrak Station and across the street from Hartford Baking Company.
Howell previously called the project a “game changer” for the New Park corridor. It will be an anchor to the neighborhood, to the Trout Brook bike and pedestrian trail which is located right across the street, and will provide new customers for area restaurants and other businesses.
The mixed-use development of 54 units will include market-rate and workforce housing, and is targeting millennials – working professionals in their 20s and 30s. Of the 54 units, 32 will be workforce – available to residents with incomes of 60 percent or less of area median income, which based on 2016 figures is $36,780 for an individual and $52,500 for a family. Also included in the development will be 11 “supportive housing” units for veterans. The first floor of the building will be set aside for common areas and commercial occupancy.
Rental costs for workforce units are estimated at $1,055 per month for a one-bedroom and $1,259 for a two-bedroom unit. Market-rate rents will be approximately $1,300 a month for a one-bedroom and $1,550 per month for a two-bedroom apartment.
The project received strong support from local legislators, with both State Rep. Joseph Verrengia and State Sen. Beth Bye requesting it as a priority for helping attract and retain young people in West Hartford and the Elmwood neighborhood.
“Attracting and keeping young people in Connecticut is one of my priorities, which is why I have been so focused on investing in new technologies like gigabit internet service and funding state startups,” Bye said in a statement. “But these Generation Y and Z residents need an affordable place to live if they are going to work here. Connecticut has some of the highest housing costs in the country, so affordable apartments like these – on a high-speed bus line, and in a vibrant community – make their Connecticut options much more attractive.”
The $5 million loan to Trout Brook Realty Advisors – a nonprofit corporation established by the West Hartford Housing Authority to acquire, develop, manage and rehabilitate affordable housing in town – will be provided at 1 percent interest for 30 years, with the principle and interest deferred.
In April, the 616 New Park project was awarded federal tax credits through the Connecticut Finance Housing Authority – one of just six projects approved out of 19 that applied to the CFHA. Howell said that those credits will total approximately $11 million.
The project has also been awarded $2.1 million from the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) for brownfield remediation at the site, Howell said.
The remainder of the development cost will be Trout Brook Realty Advisor’s equity in the project, said Howell.
Groundbreaking is scheduled to occur “by or before the first week of October 2016,” Howell said. He is hopeful to keep the project on track for completion by the first half of 2018.
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