Initial plans are being discussed to transform a former synagogue on North Main Street in West Hartford into housing.
By Ronni Newton
A synagogue building on North Main Street in West Hartford that has been vacant for many years may soon be transformed into multi-family housing through an adaptive-reuse of the property.
Trout Brook Realty Advisors, the development arm of the West Hartford Housing Authority, has signed a purchase and sale agreement for 1244 North Main Street, which formerly served as the synagogue for the Agudas Achim congregation, and anticipates redeveloping it into 49 units of housing with 67 parking spaces. Plans have been submitted to West Hartford’s Design Review Advisory Committee (DRAC) for an initial review session scheduled for Aug. 17.
“This is the newest project that they’re working toward,” West Hartford Economic Development Coordinator Kristen Gorski told We-Ha.com. In May, Trout Brook Reality Advisors celebrated the grand opening of 540 New Park – a 52-unit mixed-use building that is now managed by the West Hartford Housing Authority which was quickly 100% leased.
Town officials are really excited about this newest project, which will be located on the northern edge of Bishops Corner, close to the Bloomfield line. It has been many years since a new multi-family development has been proposed for the north end of town; the Bishops Place apartments on Albany Avenue were built in 2015.
“I’m excited to go to DRAC tomorrow,” Jill Corrado, CEO of Trout Brook Realty Advisors and executive director of the West Hartford Housing Authority Executive Director Jill Corrado told We-Ha.com on Wednesday. She said she is very excited about the way the designs mesh the old with the new. “We’re excited to be able to preserve part of the building. … It was important to us to keep part of the structure,” she said, a tribute to the former use and appropriate for the neighborhood.
Corrado said Trout Brook Realty Advisors and the West Hartford Housing Authority is also excited to focus on a part of town where they do not currently have any properties.
At the initial study session, DRAC will be asked to offer feedback to Trout Brook Reality Advisors on two different designs that are being offered as options within the proposal – commenting on factors such as the size of the building, how it’s situated on the site, and the density. Gorski said DRAC will also likely be asked to comment on which of the two options they prefer.
Gorski said that from her perspective, either option is exciting because both “are working to preserve at least a good chunk of the façade and repurpose the building through adaptive re-use.” It’s her understanding that Trout Brook Reality Advisors is approaching DRAC with an open mind and eagerly anticipating feedback.
The property has been vacant – Gorski said she thinks there has been no activity there for at least a decade – and while it’s still owned by the congregation, which merged with United Synagogues, it has been on the market for at least three years. A purchase and sale agreement is now in place between Agudas Achim and Trout Brook Reality Advisors for the 1.83-acre property, which according to the town’s online records includes the two-story 28,200 square foot synagogue building that was constructed in 1969 and was appraised for $2.55 million in 2022.
The property is on a main road, with easy access to Bishops Corner. Corrado noted that there is a bus stop right out front that serves two lines, with buses running directly to Hartford as well as Bloomfield.
While there are two different façade designs being proposed, the floor plans are the same with either option. The proposal includes 24 one-bedroom, 23 two-bedroom, and two three-bedroom units.
A majority of the units will be affordable, but Corrado said the specific details about the level of affordability have not yet been set. Some of those decisions won’t be able to be finalized until the funding has been secured.
The property is zoned for single family residential housing, and Gorski said she anticipates the project will be submitted as a request for a zoning change to multifamily and a Special Development District.
“At this point we’re going through the town’s process, and then we will work to get the funding,” Corrado said.
Trout Brook Realty Advisors has previously developed transit-oriented mixed-use properties at 540 New Park and 616 New Park, elder care communities Elm Grove at 11 Grove Street and Alfred E. Plant at 759 Farmington Avenue, and apartment communities The Goodwin at 189 Newington Road and The Faxon at 1078 New Britain Avenue.
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