MERIDEN — The owner of a planned residential and commercial project on Pratt Street hopes to have final plans before city officials in the near future.
Steven Ancona, president of Flatiron Real Estate Advisors in New York, has hired Kenneth Boroson Architects in New Haven to prepare plans for a 92-unit apartment and commercial complex at 289 Pratt St.
The city received a $1.8 million brownfield grant to clean up the 14.3-acre vacant lot and a portion of 290 Pratt St. Ancona owns both properties.
“That’s the first step that has to happen,” said City Councilor Michael Rohde, who chairs the council’s Economic Development Housing and Zoning Committee. “We are in discussions to turn it into an apartment building. It seems like a good project in a good location.”
The proposed lifestyle center is in the city’s gateway corridor, which was recently divided using stone medians and plantings. It is considered the entryway into the city and within the limits of the transit-oriented district. Apartments are allowed within the TOD as is commercial development.
The development will be mainly market rate housing, with nine units set aside as affordable. Ancona envisions a connection between the Meriden Enterprise Center at 290 Pratt St. and the lifestyle center. The upscale apartments could be for empty nesters, workers and commuters who want to live near the downtown train station, Ancona said.
“We did our own independent market study and the city did its own housing study,” Ancona said. “We looked at what they did and we definitely think there is a need. The transit hub near the property makes it a good location for housing.”
Ancona hopes to bring in a restaurant, salon and other commercial tenants to service residents, workers across the street and the general public.
“We have good synergy between the workplaces at 290,” he said. “The city is making it more of a gateway roadway and we thought it would make a good space for apartments.”
The four-story structure will include 92 luxury rental apartments, ranging from studios to 3-bedrooms. The ground floor will include the office of the property manager and will provide street level public access to retail space.
Floors two through four will each accommodate 28-30 apartments. Lower-level parking will be provided, as will bicycle racks.
Sustainable components include a rooftop photovoltaic array, electric
vehicle charging stations, Energy Star appliances and high performance design. Proposed amenities include a gym, lounge, and outdoor recreation. Residents will have access to a roof deck with plantings, trellis, firepit, and barbecue areas.
Ancona is impressed with the city’s efforts to improve its downtown with the Meriden Green, the planned parklet on the corner of Mill and Pratt streets and development partnerships at the Silver City Commons I and II residential/ commercial complexes. Commercial prospects
The Meriden Enterprise Center has exposed brick and beams in office suites that support a variety of tenants, including the Connecitcut Episcopal Church headquarters. It is also the home of Life Saver CPR & First Aid Training, The Sanctum pinball and game spot, Cayboria’s Gym, C & C Machine, Cable Management, Flatiron Realty, Exotic Imports and Exports and more.
“We’ve been the owners for a long time,” Ancona said. “We really think the city of Meriden is doing an amazing job with the new initiatives and the new housing.”
Filling commercial space in the new development should be easier than other commercial spaces in the city, Ancona feels. In particular, 24 Colony St. was built primarily for low-income residents and investors look at the income levels of those living nearby. Prospective commercial tenants are more eager to come into a market rate project that can draw from higher income tenants, a workforce across the street and the general public.
“What we’ve seen across the country is the commercial sector has been (challenged) over COVID,” Ancona said. “That’s not going to last forever. That will change once people settle in and we get past COVID.”
The project partners said they have an initial financing letter from their lender. The project is not relying on any tax credits for financing. Too much?
Mayor Kevin Scarpati said that while he supports cleaning up the parcel for a new use, he’s less than enthusiastic about more apartments downtown.
“Meriden has done its fair share," Scarpati said last week. "I don't think we can increase density in our city. Market rate (housing) is what we need, but at what level?"
Scarpati pointed to the city's agreement with the developer Pennrose to build market rate housing on the Meriden Green, across from the fire station. He believes more mixed use development could cause a glut in the residential and commercial availability and strain emergency services and schools.
But Rohde points to studies that have shown the city has too many older housing styles.
“I am aware of the older housing stock in town, Rohde said. “Anytime we can bring something more modern to the city, is a good thing.”