Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Report on Redevelopment

The Redevelopment Agency met last night -- that's the citizen committee, appointed by the mayor, which is in charge of the official redevelopment projects of the City.

There are two primary projects we are working on.

There's nothing new to report about the Miller & Bridge neighborhood, which I wrote about here and here. Relief for this neighborhood will have to wait until the City can convince the State (through our legislators) to supply the approx. $3 million to implement either Plan A or Plan B. And now you'll just have to click on my old posts to see what those options are.

The other issue is the North End home-ownership initiative. The developers are Nehemiah Housing of Middletown and Broad Park Development Corp of Hartford -- I'll call this partnership "N-BP". The plan is for N-BP to create 17 home-ownership condos on Ferry, Green & Rapallo by doing rehab on a few historic houses, and demolishing two others and building new construction. The condos would be sold to people who fit certain income categories, and not on the open market (2 of the units would be developed by Habitat for Humanity). The City appointed N-BP as the developer on this project, which is intended to compliment the 96 subsidized rental apartments which have already been constructed on Ferry Street by the Richman Group.

It's been a long time in coming, but it seems that N-BP is getting closer to completing their financing for the project. I'll bore you with the details.

There are 5 sources of income for the $7 million project (this project costs more than $400,000 per unit.)
-There's a proposed grant from the state's Department of Economic Development, for about $3 million in HOME funds. It is in the final stages of approval and is supposed to be implemented within 90 days or so.
-There are proposed Housing Tax Credits from the State for about $500,000. The N-BP application for these credits was denied last August. They will have another opportunity to apply next August.
-The City has already committed $720,000 to the project. Most of that was done through the purchase of 2 properties, which the City gave to N-BP, along with the relocation of those tenants and various other items. The last 10% of the City's committment will be transfered to N-BP through Community Development Block Funding at the November Common Council meeting. I should note that CDBG funds come from the Federal government through HUD, and they are awarded to Middletown and other cities based on the number of low-income residents.
-The Federal Home Loan Bank in Boston is listed as a source for about $400,000,and a decision on this funding is expected in November.

-The developer is anticipating that these condos, when complete, will sell for about 2.5 million. Since those funds won't be realized until the end of the project, N-BP has applied to Liberty Bank for a construction loan, which is awaiting an "after-rehab" appraisal of the likely selling prices of the future condos, which is expected within the next 3 months.

Of these five sources, the City's portion is the only fully committed source, but the others are moving closer to reality and the next 3 months are critical to the future of this project. For cash-flow purposes, N-BP has also taken out some loans so that they could get to this point with the project, and those loans will be paid back through some of the above sources. N-BP has noted that if one of their funding sources ultimately denies them, they will look for other sources. (Note: all this data comes from the reports by Michael Taylor of Nehemiah during the Redevelopment meeting, and if I've got it wrong, I hope someone will correct me!)

One unusual event at the meeting last night was the appearance of four of the landlords in this neighborhood (in spite of all the publicly-financed properties, there are still some independent homes and small rental properties on these streets.) These landlords, with Connie Piacenta as their spokesperson, were making the rounds of various city committees concerning planning, health, safety and anywhere they could find an ear. They wanted to express their concerns about how long it is taking for the N-BP project to move forward, and about the condition of these buildings in the meantime. They also had a long list of issues about parking, garbage and the condition of the small City playground which has been vandalized. And they voiced concerns about the maintenance of the new Wharfside Commons (the Richman Group apartments).

Although the Redevelopment Agency is not in charge of some of the issues that they raised, I was very glad that they came and expressed their opinions so that we can monitor the situation more closely. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and their approach of appearing before multiple committees is already working - they noted that some clean-up had already begun. As a volunteer on the Redevelopment Agency, it is always helpful to hear from citizens -- not just from the professional developers, City officials and other "regulars".

If you are still reading, then you must have an unusual tolerance for City business! Consider offering your services to the Mayor the next time an opening occurs on Redevelopment, or just come down, on the 3rd Tuesday of every month (time TBA) to watch the proceedings.

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