MERIDEN — The Zoning Board of Appeals has granted conditional approval of zoning variances requested by the developers behind a plan to convert five vacant buildings along Colony Street into a residential and commercial community.
The proposal, dubbed the Colony Street Project, was initially presented by Woodbridge-based Havn Ventures, as a pre-application to the City Council’s Economic Development Housing and Zoning Committee in April.
The ZBA heard the proposal over the course of two meetings, on June 7 and June 23, according to meeting minutes. During the second meeting, the board voted to grant conditional approval for the proposal, which would modernize each of the now vacant buildings at 1-3 Colony St., 9-11 Colony St., 13-17, Colony St., 21-23 Colony St., and 51 Colony St.
Plans showed the majority of residences would be studio apartments, with some one bedroom and larger apartments also proposed. Each of the buildings would have ground floor apartments in the rear — facing Railroad Avenue. Plans generally called for 33% non-residential use in each of the buildings.
For at least one of the buildings included in the proposal, 1-3 Colony St., the board granted approval on the condition the developers either own or lease 15 parking spaces in a downtown lot.
Attorney Dennis Ceneviva, who represented the developer during the meetings, said he believes the next step is compliance with the conditions of approval.
“I don’t think there’s anything further,” Ceneviva said. “We’re not changing any of the buildings, other than trying to restore them to yesteryear.”
Ceneviva didn’t offer a specific timeline for when the buildings would be restored and ready to be occupied by commercial and residential tenants. The restoration work, along with applying for financing and federal and state historic rehabilitation tax credits for each of the buildings, is something Ceneviva estimated his clients would complete over the next one to two years.
According to posted ZBA meeting minutes, the proposal needed zoning variance approvals because the city’s current Transit Oriented Development District regulations allow for greater density for mix-income housing developments and allows lesser density for market rate housing. The plan also needed a zoning variance because it calls for studio apartments that are smaller than 500-square-feet, the size stipulated under the TOD.
The housing proposed in the Colony Project is market-rate. According to ZBA meeting minutes, Jonathan Perlich, one of the developer’s principals, told the board that the project’s overall goal is to “create a more viable and active downtown with walking spaces and an active community that can enjoy both the commercial spaces and be able to live in a downtown area.”
According to minutes, Perlich told the board there is an “increased desire” for such spaces. He noted the area’s proximity to the Meriden Green and the recently renovated railroad station, in addition to the downtown location.