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Meriden celebrates new downtown housing, awaits more

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MERIDEN — Pennrose Properties, the Meriden Housing Authority and the Cloud Company will host a ribbon-cutting at Meriden Commons II on Dec. 5 to celebrate the opening of 76 new units of market rate and affordable housing downtown.

The completed construction marks the end of the $54 million Meriden Commons I and II projects, which added 151 new housing units off the 14-acre Meriden Green. Meriden Commons II has 27 new townhouse style homes and 49 apartment units in the mid-rise building on State and Cedar streets. Some of the townhouses have four bedrooms.

“We are very excited to have completed Meriden Commons and bring 151 high quality apartments to downtown Meriden,” said Charlie Adams, regional vice president for Pennrose. “With the Green and the improvements to the train (service), Meriden is primed for additional economic development that will stimulate business activity in the downtown.”

Like Meriden Commons I, Meriden Commons II was financed through a package of low-income housing tax credits, and state and private developer funding. The Meriden Housing Authority, its development arm Maynard Road Corp., and the Cloud Company partnered with Pennrose on the development.  

The city granted Meriden Commons I and II an 18-year tax abatement as an incentive.    

The Meriden Housing Authority received approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to demolish 144 units of public housing at the Mills apartments on Mill Street. A condition of the agreement required MHA to replace the units. About 60 units were built at 24 Colony St., with the remainder spread between Meriden Commons I and II and a separate development at 11 Crown St. 

Changing perception

City officials view the developments as a way to revitalize downtown and invite people to use amenities such as the Meriden Green, the train station and nearby markets. Meriden Commons I recently filled first-floor commercial space with a deli and chicken eatery. Meriden Commons II has 1,500 square feet of commercial space. The developments are within walking distance of the train station in the city’s designated transit-oriented district.

 “What once was a vacant blighted parking lot adjacent to high rise public housing, this development has really changed the landscape and helped with the perception we battle as an area that can often be seen as unsafe or unpopular,” said Mayor Kevin Scarpati. “I feel these developments are helping change perception.” 

According to Adams, there are 120 affordable units and 31 market rate units at Meriden Commons I and II. The 120 affordable units are priced in two tiers, very low-income —Mills replacement housing — or reduced rate for tenants making less than 60 percent of the area household median income, roughly $50,000.

Meriden Commons I filled up quickly and Meriden Commons II is expected to follow suit, Adams said.

According to information from Pennrose, tenants come from the Meriden, New Haven, Rocky Hill and Hartford areas with some relocating from Maine, North Carolina, Texas and California. Occupations include, doctor, chef, mail carrier, administrative assistant, dispatcher, warehouse worker, machine operator and medical office assistant. 

More market rate

The next step for Pennrose is more market rate housing. The city recently renewed a preferred developer agreement to build two more projects on the Meriden Green that will consist of 80 percent market rate and 20 percent affordable housing.

The extension allows Pennrose six months to put together a financing package that includes 4 percent low-income housing tax credits, and develop a design that fits into the landscape. The city is not budging on any changes to the 80/20 ratio, Scarpati said. He believes the agreement will probably have to be extended again. 

“We’re going to look at this project closely in the next few months,” Scarpati said. “We were very clear 80/20 would be the breakdown.”

City Economic Development Director Joseph Feest believes the six-month extension is enough time.

“Construction of the building would happen at a later date,” Feest said in an email. “I believe the city is ready for the higher-rent market...The TOD (transit-oriented district) is designed for people to live and commute to work via the train. We can offer attractive apartments and rents for all income brackets in our downtown area.”

Gov. Ned Lamont and other state and local officials are expected to attend the 1:30 p.m. ribbon-cutting and tour of the new units.

Prospective tenants at all income levels interested in leasing at Meriden Commons II can call 203-443-1313 or stop at the office at 177 State St.

Twitter: @Cconnbiz


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