NEW BRITAIN - Plans to redevelop the former police station site on Columbus Boulevard have received a $16 million shot in the arm from the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority.
The CHFA equity funding approved Thursday allows for construction to begin on Columbus Commons, the proposed 230,000-square-foot mixed-use complex approved last fall by the Common Council. The development, by Xenolith Partners LLC and Dakota Partners, will comprise two six-story, L-shaped buildings with retail, office space and restaurants on the first floor and 160 market-rate apartment units on the floors above.
The proposed $55 million project would be the largest retail and housing construction endeavor the downtown area has seen in decades. City and state officials say the complex will come to epitomize transit-oriented development in New Britain.
“I am thrilled for Andrea (Kretchmer) and the partners at Xenolith Developers; it’s been a lot of work to get us to this point,” Mayor Erin Stewart said Thursday. “This was the final ask of the state in order to make this project a reality. This funding will bridge the gap and we are grateful for CHFA’s help. This development is the integral piece in jump-starting the renaissance of downtown and I am so proud of our city project team.”
The cleanup and demolition of the old police site, vacated when the department relocated to Chestnut Street in 2012, was indicative of the city’s motivation to benefit from the nearby CTfastrak bus line.
“This mixed-use complex at the doorstep of CTfastrak will be integral in the continued resurgence of downtown,” said Gerry Amodio, executive director of the Downtown District. “Nationally, every unit of transit-oriented residential development generates approximately $40,000 in purchasing power local to that unit. This construction will help the local economy and increase ridership on the CTfastrak system. It is a winner all the way around.”
Xenolith officials said last year that tenants in the 20,000-square-foot commercial space could include a day care, restaurant, real estate office and other services catering to the “modern, urban crowd” the development hopes to attract.
The apartments would be a mix of market-rate and workforce housing, a term used to describe households earning from 60 to 120 percent of the area’s median income. According to a release from the state on Thursday, Columbus Commons will also provide supportive services for eight chronically homeless individuals and eight families with special needs.
Ken Malinowski, director of the city’s Department of Municipal Development, said last year that the city specifically sought proposals for the land that incorporated the use of public transportation lines and did not rely on large parking areas.
He said the Xenolith proposal includes parking for patrons of the retail space at Columbus Commons but not its residents. The developers will likely negotiate the leasing of parking spaces in the Szczesny Garage for tenants.
“The anticipation (of) seeing this complex completed has been building up and we are thrilled to see funding allocated to keep it going,” said state Rep. Bobby Sanchez, D-New Britain. “This development will enhance the appeal and prosperity of our city by creating an area that utilizes smart design to create a family-friendly, walkable neighborhood.”
Christopher Fortier can be reached at 860-801-5063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.