There will soon be a little more housing in downtown Waterbury, thanks to the Come Home to Downtown program. That’s because the owner of this property, who worked closely with CMSC under the program, has been awarded financing to begin renovating the upper floors of the building into housing.
Working closely with the Waterbury building owner through our Come Home to Downtown program, we’ve seen firsthand the power of this program to change not just our physical infrastructure, but also the minds of building owners and others who mistakenly think housing isn’t feasible downtown.
Come Home to Downtown has helped several owners of small downtown properties realize their building’s full potential. This program is offered by Connecticut Main Street Center (CMSC) through a contract with the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority using CIA funds. Waterbury was one of three pilot projects chosen for the program’s first year, and CMSC worked closely with municipal officials, the local main street program and John Lombard, owner of 20 East Main Street.
Through Come Home to Downtown we were able to offer valuable technical assistance to Mr. Lombard on rehabilitating his property into housing above commercial space, providing build-out scenarios and realistic financing models showing options for renovating the upper floors of 20 East Main Street into income-producing apartments. Prior to our involvement, the ground floor was filled with commercial tenants, but the upper floors had been mostly vacant for roughly a decade. Meanwhile, we also provided guidance to Waterbury’s municipal officials on how to manage the downtown and engaged the community, educating them about the program and seeking input on the demand for housing downtown.
The program helped convince Mr. Lombard that there is indeed a market for downtown housing in buildings like his. Located across from the green, near UConn and the Palace Theatre, future residents will have lots of great amenities to enjoy within easy walking distance.
As for financing, which is usually very difficult due to the inevitable funding gap of renovating these types of older buildings, the Come Home to Downtown team provided a specific plan and several recommendations. With these in hand, Mr. Lombard was able to enter a unique contract with a housing developer who will own the upper two floors of residential space – 38 apartments in all – while he continues to own the commercial first floor. The report also suggested he apply for historic tax credits and a state funding program called CHAMP, which we recently learned he was approved for and so is moving ahead with the renovations.
Because of the Come Home to Downtown program, we’re able to help building owners and municipalities understand that many people, and especially younger adults, want to live in authentic, compact, walkable places like historic downtown Waterbury. We’re working hard to find a way to bring our vacant upper floors back to life with quality housing, further inspiring great Connecticut downtowns, Main Street by Main Street.