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From appliances to apartments, historic building in New Britain to be transformed

Pat Guliano, managing director of multifamily for CHFA, scales a mound of dirt during groundbreaking ceremonies for a $55 million project to develop the Landers, Frary & Clark factories into a 154-unit apartment and affordable housing community.
Abigail Brone
Connecticut Public
Pat Guliano, managing director of multifamily for CHFA, scales a mound of dirt during groundbreaking ceremonies for a $55 million project to develop the Landers, Frary & Clark factories into a 154-unit apartment and affordable housing community.

The building at 321 Ellis St. in New Britain is more than 100 years old. The factory that once operated in the building acted as the battleground for women looking to contribute to the nation’s workforce efforts during World War II.

Now, largely vacant for nearly 50 years, the building will receive a new life as home to hundreds of Hardware City residents.

In a groundbreaking ceremony held Monday morning, state and local officials gathered with developers to celebrate the beginning of a $55 million project to revitalize the brownfield lot, constructing 154 affordable apartments.

The historic building, which was once home to houseware company Landers, Frary & Clark, was constructed in 1908 and fell onto WinnDevelopment’s radar in 2020, Senior Project Director Matthew Robayna said.

“During the World Wars, the complex played an important role in wartime manufacturing,” Robayna said. “During World War I, Landers, Frary & Clark was critical in developing life-saving filters that were [used in] gas masks to protect against poisonous mustard gas. During World War II, production again shifted away from appliances to munitions.”

In the Second World War, Landers, Frary & Clark was one of several New Britain companies that hired thousands of women to help develop munitions. In its new role, the building’s historic exterior brick facade will be maintained, while the inside is transformed into affordable housing.

The company was sold to General Electric in 1965, and the factory ceased production in 1969.

The new apartment complex, set to open in spring 2025, will be entirely affordable units, available to residents earning from 30% to 80% of the area’s median income.

“You have so many people who grew up here who remember this factory, being lively, who want to still live here, but can't necessarily afford it because they're on fixed incomes,” Stewart said.

Among the site’s planned amenities are 230 parking spaces, electric vehicle charging stations, a fitness room and on-site management offices.

The project was funded largely through Bank of America, with additional aid from the U.S. National Park Service and the Connecticut Department of Housing. More than $12 million in federal credits and $15 million in state credits also contributed to the project, according to Connecticut Housing Finance Authority Multifamily Managing Director Pat Guliano.

“Ellis Street represents the potential that public-private partnerships can have in reshaping and revitalizing our communities through innovative approaches to housing affordability,” Guliaano said. “Along with low-income housing tax credits, Winn is leveraging state and federal historic tax credits to bring this building back to life.”

The project will feature a 150-kilowatt solar system to provide low-energy utilities and electricity to the residents.

“I say this a lot and I feel passionately when I say it and it's not a bad thing. We may be New Britain, but we deserve nice things too,” Mayor Erin Stewart said. “No longer are we settling for just whatever kind of housing, we're not settling for housing that doesn't meet the standards or the codes of what people should be living in today.”

Abigail is Connecticut Public's housing reporter, covering statewide housing developments and issues, with an emphasis on Fairfield County communities. She received her master's from Columbia University in 2020 and graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2019. Abigail previously covered statewide transportation and the city of Norwalk for Hearst Connecticut Media. She loves all things Disney and cats.

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