January 19, 2017 09:50AM
By Leigh Tauss
MERIDEN — The City Council’s Economic Development, Housing & Zoning Committee selected a new developer to convert the former medical building at 116 Cook Ave. into an apartment complex Wednesday night after the original developer behind the project reassigned the development rights, city officials said.
Poko Partners LLC was initially designated as the preferred developer for 116 Cook Ave., in July of 2015. The building has been partially gutted and the city hopes to retain a brownfields grant to finish cleanup so renovations can begin, Economic Development Director Juliet Burdelski said. Plans call for a 64-unit apartment complex, which would be 80 percent market rate. The project is expected to cost $18 million, Burdelski said.
Poko Partners received in July a 180-day extension to submit plans, but Burdelski said another extension was needed. Poko Partner’s CEO Kenneth Olsen had become gravely ill and the group had reassigned the project to Xenolith Partners LLC, headed by Poko managing director Andrea Kretchmer, Burdelski said.
“What we’re recommending is extending the period of time that they can work with us to get a developer agreement in place,” Burdelski told the committee.
Councilor Dan Brunet, a Republican, questioned if there were any “philosophical” differences between the two development firms.
“It’s primarily the same group,” Burdelski said. “The terms that they put in their proposal under Poko, they are not changing that in any way, so that’s why I’m comfortable moving forward.”
Burdelski estimated the group would be ready to present plans in March or April. The city is still negotiating what kind of tax abatement program would be offered for the property.
Two councilors were absent from the meeting Wednesday, Lenny Rich, a Republican, and Sonya Jelks, a Democrat. A motion to designate Xenolith Partners as the new preferred developer for the site and grant an additional 180-day extension unanimously passed with votes from Brunet, Democratic Committee Chairman David Lowell and council Chairman Brian Daniels, a Democrat.