MERIDEN — There were times Andrew Davenport questioned whether 81 apartment units could fit on the relatively small downtown lot, and if the $31 million mixed-income project would continue as planned.
“Whether it was rock in the ground or a virus... you worked on and delivered the product,” Davenport told contractors at Thursday’s ribbon cutting at 11 Crown St. “Everyone here had a role in this development.”
The townhouses and ranch-style apartments on Crown and South Colony streets officially opened Thursday with representatives from Haynes Construction, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Webster Bank, Mayor Kevin Scarpati, city officials, members of the community and state lawmakers in attendance.
Davenport, vice president of development for The Michaels Organization, thanked the city for delivering a clean site after it purchased the property from the Record-Journal for $495,000 several years ago. The Michaels Organization was the developer on the project.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provided the initial funding through a Sustainable Communities grant and the federal Environmental Protection Agency helped pay the cleanup costs. The Meriden Housing Authority provided 25 Section 8 vouchers for 20 years. HUD’s total investment is $7 million.
“This project in itself, is a shining example of what we can do when we work together as a public private partnership,” Scarpati said. “We have really done this together. Meriden stands as a shining example in the state of Connecticut.”
Scarpati thanked the Meriden Housing Authority, state lawmakers and two governors for their support. Scarpati said Meriden has always taken care of its low-income residents and it’s time for other municipalities to acknowledge the affordable housing crisis.
Of the 81 units, 25 are secured through vouchers, and 17 are market rate units. The remaining units are considered affordable based on a tenant’s income.
“These projects unfortunately are not common enough in municipalities across the United States,” Scarpati said.” We are facing a severe shortage of affordable housing in America.”
HUD is also paying for support services for 17 formerly homeless families and individuals who will live in the development. The tenants are screened through the Coordinated Access Network, which selects those who have met certain criteria, including compliance with homeless shelter rules. HUD contracted with Chrysalis Center Inc. to provide support services to families.
“We not only want to get people into affordable housing, but we want them to be successful in that housing,” said Sharon Castelli, executive director of Chrysalis Center. “This is not only beautiful but will have a great impact on the community.”
A new home
Danielle DeCaro moved into her new one-bedroom apartment on the second floor of the mid-rise building in September. DeCaro had come to the Columbus House shelter in Wallingford in February.
“She was in compliance of all the rules,” said case worker Mary Harrison.
DeCaro hadn’t been homeless in 25 years and the permanent new apartment was a gift, she said. Thursday’s tour revealed spacious units with brand new stainless steel appliances and center islands in the kitchens.
“I was so happy and so grateful,” DeCaro said. “The closet, oh my God. I’m not going anywhere.”