City, developer form partnership to renovate downtown Meriden building

City, developer form partnership to renovate downtown Meriden building


Historic building at 21-23 Colony St. in Meriden, Thursday, October 16, 2014. The city has partnered with building owner, John LaRosa, to renovate the nearly-vacant four-story building. | Dave Zajac / Record-Journal

MERIDEN — Adding to the growing list of downtown redevelopment projects, the city has partnered with John LaRosa to renovate a nearly vacant four-story building on Colony Street.

The building at 21-23 Colony St. was most recently home to Fischer’s Fine Foods and Pies Ons pizzeria, but it is now vacant aside from a small insurance company on the first floor.

The project includes constructing a dozen apartments on the three upper floors. The first floor would have 4,000 square feet of commercial space, said Economic Development Director Juliet Burdelski, who is co-managing the project.

LaRosa, co-owner of Meriden-based LaRosa Construction, could not be reached for comment Thursday. He bought the property for $412,000 in 2012 with improvements in mind, Burdelski said. LaRosa Construction is also the general contractor on the project that will turn the Meriden Hub into a park.

Since buying the building, LaRosa has invested over $200,000 in a new roof, interior improvements and preliminary architectural work, Burdelski said. In total, the project is estimated to cost $2.4 million, including housing code work. It will cost another $1.5 million to develop commercial space and apartments. Burdelski is seeking grant money and tax credits to help cover the cost. LaRosa will contribute an additional $671,000 for construction.

The city won’t be providing any financing but will help LaRosa by handling grant and tax credit applications, as well as overseeing the affordable housing aspect of the project. Six of the 12 units will be considered affordable, Burdelski said. In the Meriden-New Haven metro area, a family of four that makes up to $63,900 or an individual making up to $44,750 per year would qualify for affordable housing. The other six units will be market-rate, Burdelski said.

The building at 21-23 Colony St. was built in 1877 for the Meriden YMCA and was converted for commercial use in the 1920s. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the downtown historic district.

Because of the historic designation, redevelopment costs can be offset by the state’s Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program. Since the project includes an affordable housing component, it qualifies for a 30 percent tax credit for rehabilitation expenses. Tax credits can be sold to corporations that use them to offset large tax bills.

On Wednesday, the city submitted a grant application on LaRosa’s behalf to the state Department of Housing. The city is seeking $800,000 through the Community Investment Account, which supports affordable housing. The application included letters from City Manager Lawrence J. Kendzior and City Planner Dominick Caruso.

“This project will only add value to this area,” Caruso said.

Mayor Manny Santos said he was pleased 21-23 Colony St. could be occupied in the coming years.

“That building is an awesome-looking building,” he said. “The fact that it’s been vacant for this long is disappointing.”

His only critique of the project, which he qualified as “mild,” is that affordable housing is being considered.

“I don’t want to see any more affordable housing downtown,” he said.

Still, Santos was fully supportive of the public-private relationship between LaRosa and the city.

“That’s what the city needs to do,” he said. (203) 317-2224 Twitter: @Andyragz

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