(Hartford, CT – February 20, 2014) – Two new communities are set to receive customized technical assistance to help turn under-utilized downtown buildings into housing above commercial space, says the Connecticut Main Street Center (CMSC). Meriden and New Britain have been chosen to participate in the second year of the innovative Come Home to Downtown  program, CMSC announced today.

Although the downtown revitalization organization had several choices for the mixed-use development program, CMSC said it chose Meriden and New Britain because both towns are already focusing on transit-related issues. “With the state’s $1.5 billion investment in transit, ensuring that the areas around the bus and rail stations provide an interesting mix of housing, retail and other uses is a critical component of how we grow our towns. Many of the buildings surrounding transit stations are exactly like the ones we chose for this program – older, under-utilized and full of potential,” said CMSC President & CEO John Simone.

 

The Come Home to Downtown pilot program was created in partnership with the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA) in 2012 with an investment from the Community Investment Act (CIA). The program aims to redevelop small, under-utilized downtown properties by providing technical assistance and education. During the first year of the Come Home to Downtown program, CMSC worked with pilot communities in Middletown, Torrington and Waterbury to frame the challenges to mixed-use development. A report on CMSC’s findings from the first year was made available online for municipalities and property owners around the State to share the lessons learned. “The Come Home to Downtown pilot program will help communities find ways to add housing in existing buildings, which will add value to the buildings, create more housing options in communities and create more vibrant Main Streets,” said Eric Chatman, President and Executive Director of CHFA.  

 

CHFA contracted with CMSC for a second year of the program, during which CMSC will continue to work with the property owners in the first three pilot communities as well as downtown stakeholders in Meriden and New Britain. CMSC added the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) to its team of consultants, and will work closely with LISC, CHFA, the State, lenders and community development institutions to identify and create financing options for this critical development. “We know that creating dynamic neighborhoods offers a tremendous economic payoff for the community as money spent downtown stays downtown,” said Mr. Simone. For instance, a study of downtowns in Iowa demonstrated that residents of each new apartment developed spent an additional $20,000-$39,000 a year in the downtown. “So while the financing may be extremely complex, it’s incredibly important,” said Mr. Simone.

 

CMSC will work with the owners of a small downtown property, local officials and a team of downtown stakeholders in Meriden and New Britain to determine redevelopment options for creating residential units in the upper floors of the selected buildings. CMSC will also work with, and help develop, each city’s downtown organization or downtown action team to strengthen their capacity to promote and attract downtown redevelopment.

 

Meriden

Owner: Christine Bonito 

Location: 1-3 Colony Street

CMSC will work with the municipality and property owner to create a plan for residential units on the upper floors and commercial space on the ground floor of 1-3 Colony Street in Meriden.

 

Located at the corner of Colony and West Main Street, this five-story building has 19,000 square feet of space. CMSC will work with the municipality and property owner to create a plan for residential units on the upper floors and commercial space on the ground floor. CMSC’s Come Home to Downtown activities will not only fit in with efforts already underway in Meriden, but they will also be used to leverage many other investments, including over $25 million for rail and parking infrastructure that is part of the $467 million New Haven/Hartford/Springfield rail line, $13 million in state and local funds for construction of a City park and flood storage area, construction of $22 million in demolition and flood control activities citywide and $350,000 in transit-oriented development (TOD) pilot funds. Meriden recently adopted new land use regulations for the city center and a half-mile radius surrounding the Meriden Transit Center that will help promote pedestrian-friendly, compact, mixed-use development.

 

“The City of Meriden is very pleased to have been selected to participate in this CT Main Street program,” said Lawrence J. Kendzior, Meriden City Manager. “Assisting our downtown property owners to take advantage of the anticipated transit-oriented development by reusing under-utilized space is a top priority and we welcome the opportunity to partner with Connecticut Main Street Center.”

 

New Britain

Owner: Avner Krohn

Location: 99 West Main Street

 

CMSC’s Come Home to Downtown efforts will complement the many initiatives already underway in downtown New Britain.

With CTfastrak (the bus rapid transit) nearing completion, an expansion of Central Connecticut State University in the downtown and a Bike Connectivity Plan recently implemented, this is an exciting time for New Britain as they invest in neighborhoods full of a variety of housing, retail and transportation choices. CMSC’s Come Home to Downtown efforts will complement these initiatives perfectly, as the building chosen for the program is located in the heart of it all on West Main Street. The owner has already improved the façade and remodeled the ground floor into commercial space and is now seeking assistance converting the upper floors to residential housing.

 

“I am thrilled that New Britain will be partnering with the Connecticut Main Street Center as members of the Come Home to Downtown project. This is a mixed-use real estate planning pilot program that focuses on buildings with existing first-floor commercial uses and provides significant resources to help develop the upper floors into highly sought-after residential space. I applaud the Jasko Group for seeking this partnership and I am so pleased that it will help us keep a historical piece of downtown intact and prosperous. With CTfastrak coming in 2015, New Britain will be a hub for transit-oriented development projects that will help spur growth downtown, and the Come Home to Downtown project is a key part of that. I look forward to working with CMSC to ensure the success of this venture,” said New Britain Mayor Erin E. Stewart.