MERIDEN — The clock is ticking on the city and Meriden Housing Authority to formulate a plan to raze the Mills Memorial Apartments and relocate tenants around the city.
This week the City-MHA Joint Planning Group had its first meeting since the partnership was awarded a $500,000 federal planning grant in late November. The grant expires in November 2015.
For nearly a decade, a plan to close the high-rise low-income housing project in downtown has been delayed because of a lack of funding and friction between the city and MHA over the future of the Mills. The partnership submitted a grant application in 2010 and was denied twice. Its third attempt was successful. Meriden is one of only nine communities out of 52 applicants to be selected from around the country. Many of the other communities receiving grants were much larger, including Denver, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
Earlier this month, city and MHA officials and other community leaders met with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development representatives to discuss proposed plans. The grant requires a plan for the “revitalization of a severely distressed public and or HUD -assisted multifamily housing project located in a distressed neighborhood into a viable, mixed-income community,” according to HUD ‘s website
“They were very impressed not only with our plan, but the team we have,” MHA Director Robert Cappelletti told the group at Tuesday night’s meeting. “They thought we were quite a few steps ahead from some of the other eight cities selected.”
Revitalizing downtown has been a work in progress for many years, with projects finally coming to fruition, including the redevelopment of the Hub, the improved rail line and new train station expected to open in 2016 and new downtown zoning rules to encourage development.
The grant requires the city to come up with a strategy for relocating tenants in the 140 apartments at the Mills. By federal law, all of the low-income units must be within the city. There have been proposals to relocate tenants to a proposed development at 24 Colony St. and the Record Journal Publishing Co. building at 11 Crown St. should its sale to the city be finalized.
Woo Kim, who joined the meeting via a web camera, said he was impressed during his recent visit. Kim is a project manager for Philadelphia-based planning firm Wallace, Roberts and Todd, the firm overseeing the Mills project.
“This was the fourth site visit I’ve been on and it was by far the most impressive,” Kim said.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the group also discussed a schedule for completing the planning stage. During the first half of 2014, an environmental assessment of Mills and other sites is expected. Officials will also discuss the plan with Mills residents neighbors.
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