MERIDEN — After waiting during months of construction, Nicole Murphy moved into her new three-bedroom apartment at Yale Acres last week with her two children and pets.
“Even the dog is happier,” Murphy said. “This is a beautiful apartment. I’m glad to be out of that building.”
Murphy and her children are one of 30 families that recently relocated into completed Phase I units at Yale Acres, a housing complex located just off Broad Street. The $54 million renovation project will convert 162 units of 1950s public housing to mixed-income housing utilizing net zero energy.
Phase II is one-third complete, officials said. Plans are also in the works for a power generation station and community center with a greenhouse.
“It’s the first of its kind in the state,” said Meriden Housing Authority Executive Director Robert Cappelletti. “We have an aggressive program there, a lot of activities there for our residents. It’s going to be a challenge because I don’t think we’ve done a program like that before.”
The Meriden Housing Authority sponsored the Yale Acres renovation, and its development arm the Maynard Road Corp. is the developer. Carabetta Brothers Inc. are doing the construction, which began after the funds were secured in 2018. The renovation is financed through a state grant, energy tax credits and loans.
Leasing and management will be done by Maynard Road Corp. with the Meriden Housing Authority overseeing Section 8 rentals. The project includes replacement housing for the Mills Memorial Apartments, which was torn down in 2018.
The units in the 47 renovated buildings will be expanded with additional bathroom and other space. Energy upgrades at Yale Acres include insulation and new windows and doors. Energy Star appliances have been installed and are estimated to save 25 percent over conventional appliances. Energy efficient LED lighting includes compact florescent bulbs.
A geothermal field was dug to heat and cool the property, and solar panels have been added for electric generation to supply energy for Yale Acres and other sites in the city.
“I don’t have an electric bill,” Murphy said. “It’s included in the rent.” Sustainable community
A freakish October nor’easter and several other storms in 2013 plunged many people in the state in darkness, in some cases for more than a week. The outages and the hardships on people in public housing caused Cappelletti and others to consider the need to provide energy during emergencies. He challenged architect Paul Pizzo at Landmark Architects in Middletown to design a sustainable geothermal community at Yale Acres.
But the plan requires acquiring city roads to complete a circuit around the property to allow for utilities, Pizzo said. The MHA sought zone changes on five contingent properties from single family to multi-family on Welles Terrace and Broadvale Road. The zone changes for two parcels on Elizabeth Road were rejected because they would conflict with the character of the single-family neighborhood.Road blocks
MHA representatives told the city the housing authority is revamping its request that the city abandon Gilbert and Broadvale roads.
“Without the abandonment of the streets, the plan doesn’t go forward,” said attorney Dennis Ceneviva.
Pizzo said the MHA will be resubmitting its request to the city to abandon the roads in the next few weeks. Site plans for the expansion will follow. The community center and power generation center are also in the works.Neighbors speak out against more development
At a recent public meeting, several single-family homeowners who live near Yale Acres spoke against expanding the housing complex and complained about the difficulties of living close to the ongoing construction.
“There is a two-story building next to me,” said Richard Wells, of 58 Broadvale Road. “They come down Broadvale at 80 mph, once in a while you see the police. Why do you need so many more units?”
Wells and neighbor Kelly Lewis, of 50 Welles Terrace, complained about drug sales and traffic at all hours of the night. Another neighbor said construction equipment is noisy and vehicles are parked all over the neighborhood.
“I have three young children,” Lewis said. “Since the last five years, the traffic is horrible. I don’t let my kids out front. It’s kind of frightening as a mom. Something has to be done before a child gets hurt.”
Pizzo responded to the complaints by pointing out that the complex will have at least 30 cameras on buildings and entrances that will be directed to local police. He added that when the Housing Authority acquires the roads it intends to repave them and add speed bumps.
“There are elements now that need to be improved upon and there are plans to improve them,” Pizzo said.
He also invited neighbors with concerns to speak to management representatives on site.
“It’s not lost on us the concerns you have in the community,” said City Councilor David Lowell at the meeting.
Murphy, the Yale Acres tenant, acknowledged the construction is overwhelming at times. She said the workers have been polite and try to stay out of the residents’ way. But she’s seen an improvement in traffic and crime since she moved in 10 years ago.
“It’s not any different than any other part of the city,” Murphy said. “This place has gotten better.”