MERIDEN — There are children’s bikes on a rack in the parking lot and a stone walkway winds through shrubs and flowers to the tenant entrance.
Finishing touches are underway at Meriden Commons I, but about 15 families have already moved into the four-story apartment and commercial building at the corner of State and Mill streets.
Leasing of the 75 units began last month. Officials expect to have 20 to 25 units occupied for a July 24 ribbon-cutting.
“We’re ahead of schedule,” said Charlie Adams, regional vice president of Pennrose Properties, the developer working with the Meriden Housing Authority on the project.
Pennrose, which is handling the leasing, intends to move in about 10 families a month until Meriden Commons I is fully occupied by the end of the year.
The $27 million project, which began one year ago, will house mixed-income families in one, two and three bedroom apartments. The apartments come with appliances and spacious interiors. A community-room and commercial space are on the first floor.
“The apartments are lovely,” said City Economic Development Director Juliet Burdelski. “This is all part of the overall plan to encourage people to live downtown.”
The opening of the CTrail Hartford Line on June 16 and the train station across the street is a selling point for commuters who want to live along the rail line, Burdelski said.
The housing will be 80 percent affordable and Section 8, and 15 units are reserved as market rate. The affordable housing units are a key component of the project financing and will help replace 144 units of public housing that were vacated when the Mills Memorial Apartments closed next door.
Abatement experts are currently clearing out the five Mills buildings in preparation for demolition, Burdelski said. The city has selected Bestech Inc. to raze the buildings. Once the buildings have been taken down, the city will use the property to continue its flood control project by extending the Meriden Green across Mill Street to Cedar Street. Mill Street will eventually be eliminated.
“Everything is really moving forward,” Burdelski said. “We’ll see buildings coming down in mid-September.”
Meriden Commons I was financed through private investment dollars, low-income housing tax credits and $5.7 million from the state Department of Housing.
Tenants from the Mills Memorial Apartments have right of first refusal for apartments in Meriden Commons I and II. However, many of them moved out of the Mills about six months ago and are settled or in the midst of a one-year lease, Burdelski said.
A ground breaking ceremony for Meriden Commons II, on the corner of State and Cedar streets, will be simultaneous with the ribbon cutting on July 24, Adams said.
Meriden Commons II has similar financing as Meriden Commons I, with low-income housing tax credits, private investment and a loan from the Department of Housing. It will also have a mix of affordable and market rate units.
Meriden Commons II, at a cost of $28 million, will have 76 apartment units in three buildings: one large building of row apartments and two more buildings for townhouses. Some of the units will have four bedrooms.
Between the ongoing boulevard construction on Pratt Street, the Mills demolition and the construction of Meriden Commons II, downtown will continue to see more construction in the upcoming year, Burdelski said.
“There is a lot of excitement,” she said.