Recipient: Town of Windsor
Partners: CIL Development, Lexington Partners, LLC
Opportunities & Challenges
As early as 1973, town plans called for the redevelopment of the portion of Windsor Center lying just east of the railroad tracks. This area contained a mix of obsolete industrial and municipal uses which no longer contributed to the vitality of the Center. Redevelopment for housing and office use was proposed. As a first step, in the 1980s and 1990s, the town undertook a series of capital projects to improve the physical environment of the area:
- a one-mile trail was constructed to take walkers to and along the Farmington River;
- an intermodal transportation center was created for CT Transit and Amtrak passengers that included a commuter parking lot and public restrooms in a restored train station and freight house;
- a retention pond was constructed for storm water control and aesthetics; and
- a new road was built to connect the area with the Loomis Chaffee School campus to the south.
Outcome & Impact
Since construction of the Windsor Station apartments began, the Center has seen the establishment of three new restaurants and the renovation of a fourth. In addition, the owner of a long-vacant theater building has stepped up his commercial rehabilitation project. While it cannot be claimed that these events are solely the result of the new apartments, it is reasonable to assume that the prospect of a growing customer base had a positive effect on these investment decisions.
First Town Square
In 2005, the town assisted CIL Development in the adaptive reuse of an historic mill building at 33 Mechanic Street. The First Town Square project involved the conversion of an 80,000 sq ft factory building into 50 market-rate, owner-occupied residential units. A contributing structure in the Broad Street Green National Register District, the Town’s Economic Development Commission had listed 33 Mechanic Street as a top priority redevelopment site in Windsor.
The three primary obstacles at the start of the project included: environmental remediation, acquisition of access, and relocation of the non-profit Vintage Radio Museum. The Town worked in cooperation with the museum and developer to address each of these obstacles. A redevelopment agency was created to establish the authority to provide direct financial assistance to the developer for the environmental remediation and to acquire land for access.
The Town’s source of funds for the redevelopment grant and acquisition was tax increment financing. New property tax revenues generated by the project were used to repay bonds issued by the town. At completion, with an $8 million value, the project provided more than $140,000 in new property taxes annually.
To assist the museum, the Town located a nearby vacant building that was appropriate. With approval of the CT Department of Economic and Community Development, the Town reallocated $100,000 of STEAP funds to help pay for basic improvements to the new location.
Windsor Station Apartments
Following on the success of First Town Square, the town acquired a small warehouse building adjoining its public works equipment garage at 69 Mechanic Street to create a larger site for redevelopment. The Town approved amendments to the Zoning Ordinance that increased allowable residential density from 12 to 20 units per acre and established a parking maximum for the redevelopment area.
With guidance from the Windsor Redevelopment Agency, it was determined that the assembled site should be offered to developers who would create multi-family rental housing rather than owner-occupied units. The need for housing for employees of local businesses and the opportunity created by the proposed commuter rail service on the adjoining Amtrak line played into this decision. The Town selected Lexington Partners, LLC as developer.
Windsor Station is a 130-unit market-rate rental project on a 6.5 acre site adjoining the passenger rail station. The $23 million development project included demolition of two former industrial buildings, environmental remediation and construction of two, four-story elevator buildings with parking and site amenities. The project includes 32 studio, 65 one-bedroom and 33 two-bedroom units and is targeted to an underserved rental market of young professionals 20 to 35 years of age and baby boomers.
Construction was completed in May 2017. Ninety percent occupancy was achieved in five months. The target market is clearly being served as more than 64% of the initial residents are between the ages of 18 and 35. As of December 1, 2017, 120 units of the Windsor Station Apartments were occupied by 158 residents, 148 of whom are new to Windsor. This has, in turn, benefited local businesses.
The Town of Windsor invested in the necessary pre-development costs, enabling the assembly of the properties, and offering the site for redevelopment. These costs included land acquisition ($327,000), environmental assessments ($62,000) and development feasibility analysis ($30,000).
These costs included land acquisition ($327,000), environmental assessments ($62,000) and development feasibility analysis ($30,000).
The developer’s costs to purchase the site from the town, demolition existing structures, remediate soil, finance, and construct the apartments and site improvements totaled $22.5 million. In addition, the Town agreed to a below-market purchase price for the site and provided a four-year, 40% property tax abatement to assist the developer in obtaining project financing.
The next step is to facilitate development of more housing in Windsor Center. The exceedingly fast rent-up of these projects clearly demonstrates the desirability of new housing in a mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented downtown environment. This success will help secure public and policy maker support as the town focuses on two other sites that can be redeveloped for housing. The town has been working with the property owners and Capitol Region Council of Governments to complete environmental assessments in preparation for their redevelopment.