MERIDEN — Representatives from Havn Ventures this week outlined an ambitious plan to transform five buildings on Colony Street into a lifestyle community for millennials and young adults.
The Colony Street project will include studios opposite Meriden Station and Meriden Green, a restaurant, train platform cafe, fitness centre, games room, laundry, food court and storage room. bicycles.
The buildings are of different heights and styles, but all are vacant. These are 1-3 Colony St., 9-11 Colony St., 13-17 Colony St., 21-23 Colony St. and 51 Colony St.
“This is an effort to redevelop these five parcels, bring them into the 21st century,” said attorney Dennis Ceneviva, who represents Havn Ventures. “We want to build units at market rate…We hope the proposal will benefit the city.”
Jonathan Perlich, chief operating officer of Havn Ventures, presented the plan Tuesday to members of the city council’s economic development housing and zoning committee. The presentation was a preview to gather comments and suggestions before the entity filed applications for approval with the city.
Mendel Paris, CEO of Havn Ventures, and his partner Johnny Grunblatt were the highest bidders at a December auction for 9-11 and 13-17 Colony St. A federal bankruptcy judge cleared the sale of the buildings , which attracted three other bidders.
Paris and Grunblatt’s $275,000 offer was approved by the bankruptcy court. The partnership also purchased 51 Colony St. for $210,000, 1-3 Colony St. for $980,000 and 21 Colony St. for $800,000, according to city land records.
After doing some research, the partnership learned that $220 million in public and private investments had been made downtown, including the Meriden Green, Meriden Commons I and II, 11 Crown St., and infrastructure and flood control, Perlich said.
It also looked at a survey of what residents and local businesses wanted to see downtown. Brasseries are at the top of the list, with sit-down restaurants also finishing at the top.
The art deco building 9-11 Colony St. was identified as a building that did not lend itself to residential uses on the first floor, so a retail business is planned, possibly a restaurant. The plan also calls for the building to have a few apartments.
The former Fischer’s Fine Foods at 21-23 Colony St. has potential for a cafe along Railroad Avenue next to the train platform. A food hall with a variety of vendors is also planned. The lower level will have a games room and a laundry room.
But first, the Colony Street project wants the city to reconsider changes to transit-oriented district bylaws that would allow the developer to build apartments on the first floor of the rear portion of buildings. TOD regulations now require commercial uses on the first floor and residential units on the upper floors. It also calls for on-site parking and density changes.
Perlich reassured committee members that the partnership had the funding in place to complete the work. Havn Ventures has worked on mixed-use projects on Finch Avenue in New Haven and is developing the Quinnipiac River Marina on Front Street in New Haven.
“We’ve made some suggestions of what we’d like to see,” said the city’s director of economic development, Joseph Feest. “Some have followed through, some haven’t. It’s always a fluid plan.
According to documents given to committee members, the proposal calls for 73 studios in the five buildings, many of which face Railroad Avenue. Two one-bedroom units would be located at 1-3 Colony St., which also includes space for a gym.
“Colony Street is the perfect transition out of the suburbs,” Perlich said. “It has unique characteristics and a symbiotic relationship with the railroad and the park. We want to bring in tenants at market price, increase pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
Given the pandemic and the trends seen across the region, the goal is to utilize viable commercial spaces, Perlich said.
“We want to meet the needs of a localized small business,” he said. “We envision amenity spaces that will be shared everywhere. We fully intend to use historical symbolism. We looked at photos, it kind of inspired our vision. We want people who want to live in a very cool neighborhood. We will have large windows facing the park and we will incorporate them into the design. »
Committee members responded positively to much of the presentation. Republican Councilman Dan Brunet was concerned about using commercial space, given the 10,000 square foot commercial vacancy at 24 Colony Street. daytime.
“That’s not happening,” Brunet said. “The station is deserted. Commons I and II, there is not enough parking and causes conflicting relations. People need cars. Public transport does not really exist.
The committee also heard another pre-application review for Silver City Apartments, which includes 45 market-priced housing units at 162171, 177 Pratt St. and 103 Twiss St. The property is currently a vacant building that will be demolished. and rebuilt to 27 one-bedroom and 18 two-bedroom units.
The plaintiff, 163 Pratt LLC, is requesting an amendment to the text of the density laws to increase the number of permitted units and the height of ceilings in the area.
Councilwoman Yvette Cortez, a Democrat, asked developers and committee members to consider the impact of gentrification on minorities and the poor when approving market prices and one-bedroom apartments or studio on both projects.
But committee chairman Michael Rohde, also a Democrat, countered that gentrification happens when people are displaced. These projects are for vacant buildings, he said.
Gentrification is the process of changing the character of a neighborhood by the influx of more affluent residents and businesses. Gentrification often increases the economic value of a neighborhood, but can cause demographic shifts.
Rohde added that affordable housing is available in more than 200 new units around Meriden Green and that the proposed Colony Street development is located directly across from 24 Colony St., which has an 80% low-income tenant mix. .
Rohde hailed The Colony Street project for investing resources in one of the most depressed but up-and-coming parts of the city.
“We’ve been waiting for projects like yours to take us to the next level,” Rohde told Perlich. “For too long people have looked downtown and seen a loser.”
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