Lest anyone forget that progress on transforming downtown Meriden is an ongoing process, there will be a ribbon-cutting Thursday at Meriden Commons II to celebrate the opening of 76 new units of market-rate and affordable housing. Pennrose Properties, the Meriden Housing Authority and the Cloud Company will host the event.
While the entire project of revitalizing the downtown has taken years and is not yet complete, it is notable that 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 a mid-rise building at State and Cedar streets.
"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," said Pennrose Regional Vice President Charlie Adams.
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.
Mayor Kevin Scarpati said he feels these developments are helping change people’s perception of downtown Meriden.
The next step for Pennrose is more market-rate housing. Two more projects on the Meriden Green will consist of 80 percent market-rate and 20 percent affordable housing.
The 80/20 breakdown is considered very important in making the whole project viable, Scarpati said. "We were very clear 80/20 would be the breakdown."
But those are just facts and figures. To throw this progress into bright relief, Santa Claus recently showed up downtown, disembarking from a CT Rail train at Meriden station Saturday before a rousing crowd of hundreds of happy kids and parents.
It was the second annual YuleFest on Colony Street, and the jolly old fellow joined hundreds of people gathered for a bit of holiday cheer as Christmas carols played up and down the street.
YuleFest organizers want people to feel connected to all of the city, including Colony Street, said Carrie Teele, who was inspired to start the event last year by childhood memories of Santa Claus arriving on Colony Street on the back of a fire truck.
“This is home,” Teele said. “This is our hometown.”
Home it is — but with a fresh new look.