MERIDEN — Plans are being developed to convert existing office space into 16 apartments at a downtown building. Before planning is completed, officials want to know how to attract young professionals to downtown.
The building at 1-3 Colony St. was selected for the Connecticut Main Street Come Home to Downtown program. Aimed at converting commercial and office space to apartments, the program offers free architectural services and other benefits.
Although plans are in the works, Economic Development Director Juliet Burdelski said it’s important to find out what people want in downtown.
“Part of the final report on the building is to get public feedback, so we want to know what it would take to get people downtown,” Burdelski said.
Plans were developed over the last several years to revive Meriden’s downtown. The addition of a park at the Hub, the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail line, traffic improvements and new zoning regulations to encourage development are part of the effort to attract young professionals and businesses.
A community meeting will be held Sept. 9 at 6 p.m. at Middlesex Community College to discuss the projects and get feedback. Those attending will be asked what types of businesses, events and other attractions they would like to see in the area.
Representatives from businesses in downtown were invited, as were downtown landlords and property owners in addition to the YMCA and Middlesex Community College.
“We would like to see a younger crowd,” Burdelski said. “We want to have a positive discussion with people who are down here already and people who want to come in or are looking at the possibility.”
Middlesex staff and students are being encouraged to attend, Middlesex’s Meriden branch director Tami Christopher said.
“We’ve really been discussing with the incoming students the opportunity to be involved in the community...This is a good opportunity for them,” Christopher said.
Students responded favorably to surveys about downtown, but there is still a need for more activities and eateries, Christopher said.
“They really are looking for more things to do,” she said. “They are not necessarily looking to spend a lot of money every day, but just to see some more activities downtown and more of a variety for local eateries.”
The building at 1-3 Colony St. is owned privately and is the home to the Connecticut Junior Republic, Cardinal Engineering, and Midstate Chamber of Commerce. The building is above 50 percent full and there is a possibility to add 16 apartments with about 1,000 square-feet apiece. Once the meeting is complete, a final report will be written and an application can be submitted for financial aid to help with the conversion.
“It really has a lot of potential with floor-to-ceiling windows, great views, and nice space,” she said.
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