Will Serve as Models of Downtown Revitalization Planning
(Hartford, CT – April 24, 2013) – Three downtown Connecticut properties have been chosen as models of adaptive re-use as part of a unique new program aimed at bringing more housing downtown. Connecticut Main Street Center (CMSC) previously announced the selection of Middletown, Torrington and Waterbury as the Come Home to Downtown pilot communities that will receive customized urban planning assistance from CMSC; it has now identified which buildings and owners will be the focus of the program’s targeted technical assistance.
Come Home to Downtown is a mixed-use real estate planning program launched with the support of the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA). Its goal is to assist small “mom and pop” building owners to redevelop vacant or underutilized space into a mix of housing and retail choices. CMSC will also provide local public and private champions and partners with strategic tools to allow them to create or enhance a strong downtown management program. To date, CMSC has engaged a team of consultants that are working with an Advisory Team and Project Liaison from each of the three pilot communities. The consultants are Bill Crosskey of Crosskey Architects LLC; Lou Trajcevski of Newcastle Housing Ventures, LLC; and Dave Sousa with CDM Smith. Together with CMSC, they identified prospective building owners and site locations, from which the following were chosen as the model buildings:.
Owner: The Amato Family
Location: 418-426 Main Street
Owned by the Amato family, this site actually consists of two adjacent buildings. It is located across the street from the owners’ well-known and long-established shop, Amato’s Toy and Hobby. The model buildings are three stories high, and are the only surviving examples of late 19th century commercial building on this block in the Middletown Central Business District.
Middletown residents will likely recognize the owners, Diane (Amato) and Joel Gervais, who are representing Phyllis Amato. Diane’s father, Vincent (husband of Phyllis Amato), began Amato’s Toy & Hobby Store on Main Street, which grew to five locations in Connecticut. Today, his children continue to own and operate the retail stores in Middletown (Diane and her husband own this location) and New Britain. “Vinny” loved Main Street Middletown, and as a founding member of the Downtown Business District and an active member of the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce, he never tired of working with others to keep Main Street a center for commerce and community.
“We are looking forward to exploring the possibilities of renovating our historic Main Street buildings for mixed use with housing and retail with the Come Home Downtown pilot program, continuing our family’s commitment to Middletown’s wonderful downtown,” said Diane and Joel Gervais.
Owner: Torrington Downtown Partners
Location: 11-21 Main Street
This building is owned by the Torrington Downtown Partners, who have already made significant investment in downtown redevelopment and are looking for assistance moving forward. Steven Roth, President of Elevator Service Co., Inc.; Stephen Timken, T&M Builders; and David Bender, Bender Plumbing, are the individuals behind the Torrington Downtown Partners group. The Romanesque Revival building at 11-21 Main Street was built around 1896-1897 and is approximately 14,646 square feet and three stories high. Standing at the entrance to Torrington’s downtown shopping district, it faces the Naugatuck River and bridge to the south. The owners are interested in doubling the number of units, as well as building smaller units to meet the needs of today’s market.
The Torrington community is also vested in the project. In a unique participating venture, Torrington Downtown Partners have offered townspeople the opportunity to investment in the Partners through $100 memberships. This membership entitles them to vote on future choices about the development of properties the Partners own, such as aesthetics of renovations. (Torrington Downtown Partners currently own nine downtown buildings, of which 11-21 Main Street is one.) The $100 membership also entitles members to discounts at some of the properties’ retail tenants. To date, there are nearly 200 memberships.
Owner: John Lombard
Location: 20 East Main Street
One Lombard Center is situated at a key location in the center of downtown Waterbury and is well positioned to take advantage of other efforts underway, including local universities, hospitals and entertainment. The building’s owner, John Lombard, currently maintains an office on the second floor and many of the ground floor spaces are full. The building stands three-stories high and occupies a total of 64,494 square feet. The original art deco structure, built in 1930, burned in the 1940s. When Mr. Lombard bought the building it had been rebuilt maintaining the art deco style by the previous owners. It has always been a commercial building and had many businesses in it with primarily retail on the ground floor and offices on the upper two floors for dentists, doctors, barbers and more. In recent years it housed Congresswoman Nancy Johnson’s Waterbury office and Rideworks, among others.
Now that the buildings and owners have been chosen, CMSC and the consultants will work closely with them, providing recommendations on how the buildings can be physically redeveloped to accommodate housing on the upper floors and retail on the ground floors, including what the financial requirements will be. Architectural images or conceptual drawings will be provided. Also, because CMSC worked hard to choose buildings typically found throughout Connecticut, once this work is complete, these buildings will serve as models for other downtown property owners to redevelop their vacant and underutilized space.
“We couldn’t be more excited to begin working on the buildings,” said CMSC President & CEO John Simone. “They had everything we were looking for, especially engaged and forward thinking owners that are committed to their downtowns, and they truly represent a range of the types of structures you would typically see throughout Connecticut. The consultants are already coming up with options for how these spaces can be re-designed to meet the demands of young people and empty nesters who want to live in a walkable downtown.”
From their perspective, the building owners are equally thrilled to get the customized assistance the Come Home to Downtown program offers. Some of them have owned the buildings for years, but weren’t sure of the best way to proceed with redeveloping them on their own. “Torrington Downtown Partners is excited at the prospect of working together with the Connecticut Main Street Center and the City of Torrington to develop a cohesive plan to invigorate mixed use development within the City of Torrington’s downtown core,” said Steven Roth, one of the Torrington Downtown Partners. “Utilizing the contracted professional services, provided by the Connecticut Main Street Center, Torrington Downtown Partners is confident that the program will definitely produce the intended results,” said Mr. Roth. In Waterbury, Mr. Lombard looks forward to the ripple-effect this development will have. “We look forward to working with Connecticut Main Street Center to explore the residential possibilities for our building with the ultimate goal of kick-starting the revitalization of Downtown Waterbury,” said Mr. Lombard.
CMSC and the consultants will continue to work with the owners throughout the Spring to complete their draft drawings and reports. Simultaneously, CMSC will also meet with each community’s Advisory Team to keep the town and public apprised of their progress. CMSC has also started a blog chronicling its experience with this new program, which can be viewed on the CMSC website.
For more information on the Come Home to Downtown program, contact CMSC Community Engagement Director Susan Westa at 860.280.2032 or firstname.lastname@example.org.