The redevelopment of property at 900-904 Farmington Avenue in West Hartford into affordable housing will begin as soon as possible with the closing Friday of the financing for the project.
By Ronni Newton
Construction of The Camelot – an affordable housing development in West Hartford Center – is set to begin imminently following the closing Friday of financing for the project, said Lewis Brown, principal of Honeycomb Real Estate Partners.
Brown said the team is ready to get to work as soon as possible, with utility shutoffs happening immediately in preparation for the demolition of the former Los Imperios restaurant and an adaptive re-use and renovation of the 52-unit West Hartford Inn into a total of 44 apartment homes. All of the units will be classified as affordable housing for residents at various levels of income eligibility, ranging from those earning less than 30% of area median income (AMI) to 80% of AMI. Thirteen of the units will be for those earning less than 30% of AMI.
Creation of the multi-layered capital stack for financing affordable housing is complicated, but “all things considered, it’s been rather quick,” Brown said.
Honeycomb Real Estate Partners is developing the project in partnership with Vesta Corporation, Corridor Ventures, and Vallone Ventures.
Along with demolition, the first step will be the remediation of the site, where at one point in the past a gas station was located. The Town of West Hartford, through the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development’s Municipal Brownfield Grant Program, received $998,000 to assist with the remediation and environmental rehabilitation.
In addition, the project was able to secure a $3 million grant through an affordable housing fund established by the Town of West Hartford in December 2022. The Town Council unanimously approved the allocation of $6 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to support the goal of increasing its stock of affordable housing.
In June 2023, the Town Council also agreed to support the development of this milestone project by approving a fixed tax assessment of the property. The resolution allows the assessment of the property to be fixed at a value starting at $1,000,000 and increasing to $1,143,389 in year 10, but will still provide the town with more tax revenue for the property than is currently being received.
The construction period is estimated to take 15 to 16 months, Brown said, and he expects the units to be leased very quickly.
“I am very excited to celebrate the closing on Camelot,” Mayor Shari Cantor said Friday. “This development will have a significant and positive impact on affordable housing in the heart of West Hartford, and I am grateful to everyone that has made this closing possible.”
The 24 apartments in the renovated building will include 20 one-bedroom units and four two-bedroom units. The 20 apartments in the new portion of the project will all be two-bedroom units, and that building will include community space and amenities on the ground floor.
“The new community will feature modern kitchens, energy efficient heating and cooling, a fitness center, community rooms, and resident outdoor space just steps from all that West Hartford Town Center has to offer,” Brown said in the announcement of the closing.
Housing doesn’t address all issues, Brown said in a previous interview, and the community space will give residents access to important resources such as computers and other technology.
“There will be a mix of income profiles within the housing,” Brown also said previously. “Communities do better when you have a diverse group of people living, working, and interacting with each other.”
Prior to Los Imperios, which lost its liquor license in late 2017 following a remonstrance hearing and closed for good shortly thereafter, there had been many other restaurants in the space, including Pancho McGee’s in the 1980s, Manga Reva, House of Zodiac, Fiorello’s, and Shish Lounge.
The original name of the hotel, and the restaurant, however, was “Camelot.”
Stamped on the original architectural drawings from the mid-1960s was the name “The Camelot Motor Hotel,” and the photograph below, which is part of the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society archives, shows the “Camelot” name on the exterior of the restaurant building.
Camelot was a common name in the era of Kennedys, and Brown said using that name for the development is a nod to the property’s history and the early days of the civil rights movement.
“This important development would not be possible without the teamwork, collaboration and funding provided by our public and private partners. In no specific order, we would like to thank Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA), Connecticut Department of Housing (DOH), Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), Town of West Hartford, West Hartford Housing Authority and PNC Bank,” Brown said in the announcement. “A special thanks to our Design, Engineering, Construction, Legal and Accounting Team Members- Crosskey Architects, Acorn Engineering, SLR, Geoquest, InnoConn Construction Management, Alter & Pearson, Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, Rogin Nassau, Magnolia Insurance and Whittlesey,” he added.
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