A ceremonial ‘beam-signing’ Tuesday celebrated the Trout Brook Realty Advisors and West Hartford Housing Authority’s 540 New Park mixed-use development.
By Ronni Newton
Gov. Ned Lamont, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, Mayor Shari Cantor, and other state and local leaders and stakeholders gathered Tuesday for a ceremonial beam signing, celebrating West Hartford’s newest transit-oriented project – the $20 million mixed-use, mixed-income, multi-family residential and retail development known as 540 New Park.
The 1.81-acre site – at 540 New Park Ave. in West Hartford – is at the corner of Oakwood and New Park avenues, and equidistant from the Flatbush and Elmwood CTfastrak stations. The project should be completed by the summer of 2022.
Similar to the 616 New Park project also developed by Trout Brook Realty Advisors and the West Hartford Housing Authority, which was completed in 2018 and was soon fully leased, 540 New Park will epitomize and serve as a further catalyst for the type of development being sought for the New Park Avenue corridor. The building is close to the roadway, and the in-house amenities and proximity to mass transit as well as the Trout Brook Drive bike path will make it easy for residents to do without a car.
Lamont, who praised the residents of the state for stepping up during the pandemic and for embracing the vaccination effort, said this is a unique time for many reasons, among them low interest rates.
“For the first time in a long time people are moving to Connecticut,” Lamont said, making it more important than ever to invest in the future, and invest in projects that contribute to economic growth in places like West Hartford.
“You’ve got to know what your strengths are in the state … we’ve got the greatest workforce in the world,” and one of the things you need to to maintain that workforce, to attract young families, is to have affordable housing, the governor said.
“Housing that attracts people to the state of Connecticut … well-planned, well-managed growth and development. That’s what we’re trying to do right here,” Lamont said. “I love the fact that right here in West Hartford we know how important housing is, we know how important affordable housing is, we know how important it is that our kids be able to afford to live here when they’re getting going. We know important it is to the folks that work in our town to be here, and they can do it and not necessarily need a car.”
“This is so exciting, and really deserves an incredible amount of gratitude to all the players,” Cantor said at the event Tuesday.
New Park Avenue has already seen a resurgence of commercial activity, with New Park Brewing, GastroPark, and Hartford Baking Company’s transition to Citizen Chicken & Donuts as some of the recent business successes, Cantor said. The 540 New Park development will be another important spur to housing and a transformation of a long-vacant brownfield parcel.
“We are thrilled at the success of 616, and we know 540 is going to also be a success,” she said. Not only is it walkable to two CTfastrak stations, said Cantor, “but we hope, governor, also a future train station,” she said to Lamont with a smile. Plans for a railway station in West Hartford were first announced in early 2015, but funding has not yet progressed past the design phase.
Bysiewicz likened a project like 540 New Park to “making lasagna. … It takes a lot of ingredients to make it happen.” Federal, state, and local governments, as well as private entities, have all been involved in making this project happen.
George Howell, CEO of the West Hartford Housing Authority and Trout Brook Realty Advisors expressed his thanks to all who have supported the project, and those who attended the beam signing.
“They say it takes a village to raise a child. You can see … it takes a lot more than a village to build affordable housing,” Robert Wienner, president of Trout Brook Realty Advisors, said Tuesday as he noted the number of people who have been involved in the 540 New Park project.
“Smart, well-planned growth is essential to the vitality, the prosperity, and the sense of community of a town,” Wienner said, and that’s something West Hartford’s leaders have always understood. “Equally important, and even less common, they’ve understood that having a growing number of and variety of housing options is an essential element of that vitality and that health.”
Clare Doyle Dowd, chairperson of the West Hartford Housing Authority, said “540 New Park will be another exceptional transit-oriented housing development for Connecticut and in the Town of West Hartford. … We are all saying ‘yes’ to the importance of affordable housing, ‘yes’ to exceptional design … ‘yes’ to reinvestment, and ‘yes’ to continuing innovation and design, thoughtful placemaking, and inclusive communities.”
The 540 New Park development will include 52 units, 27 two-bedroom apartments and 25 one-bedroom apartments, with “young, working professionals in their 20s and 30s” as the target demographic. Retail space is planned for the ground floor of the building.
Forty-one of the units will be designated as “work force” housing – available to those with incomes 60% or less of area median income. Based on 2021 figures, that would mean $43,860 for an individual and $62,580 for a family of four. Eleven of the units will be market rate.
Projected rents for work force units could be approximately $1,155 and below per month for a one-bedroom and $1,386 and below per month for a two-bedroom, while projected monthly rents for market rate units could be approximately $1,465 for a one-bedroom.
Closing on the financing took place in January, and demolition and environmental remediation began on what was a brownfields site and the former Acme Auto Parts warehouse in February, The project is being financed with federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) from the Connecticut Finance Housing Authority (CHFA) as well as additional subordinate financing from the Connecticut Department of Housing (DOH). People’s United Bank is the tax credit investor, and Trout Brook Realty Advisors said the property will be developed in partnership with the Washington, DC-based National Housing Trust Communities (NHTC).
Seila Mosquera-Bruno, commissioner of the state Department of Housing, said the development checks off many boxes – housing, transportation, mixed-income. “It has all the elements of building a community,” she said, also thanking the governor for finally ending the debt diet so the project could move forward.
“We’re proud to be one of the many partners on this particular deal,” said Nandini Natarajan, CEO of CHFA.
James Engelhardt, director of real estate for NHTC, said this is the third development in West Hartford, the third in Elmwood, with which the organization has been involved. NHTC is pleased to “build and lock in reasonably priced, high-quality housing at the early part of the process,” he said.
As the West Hartford Housing Authority’s development arm, Trout Brook Realty completed other projects in West Hartford in addition to 616 New Park, including include Elm Grove at 11 Grove Street, Alfred E. Plant at 759 Farmington Avenue, The Goodwin at 189 Newington Road, and The Faxon at 1078 New Britain Avenue. The Faxon was renovated amidst the pandemic, Howell noted.
The mission of both the West Hartford Housing Authority and Trout Brook Realty Advisors” is to create, preserve, and revitalize a wide range of housing and community development opportunities – from market-rate, to work-force, to affordable – that serve a diverse mix of households within Central Connecticut.”
Like what you see here? Click here to subscribe to We-Ha’s newsletter so you’ll always be in the know about what’s happening in West Hartford! Click the blue button below to become a supporter of We-Ha.com and our efforts to continue producing quality journalism.