State grant promises to increase housing and improve economic vibrancy
A state funded grant designed to increase housing and boost economic vibrancy has been awarded to eight Connecticut municipalities.
The Connecticut Communities Challenge Grant was established in 2021, with the goal of improving livability, vibrancy, convenience, and equity.
In the third and final round of a recently launched program, millions in state dollars will go toward the eight projects, including the development of new apartments statewide.
The funds are administered through the state Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD). The department appropriates funds based on each applying project’s ranking in a scoring system designed specifically for the goals of the grants, DECD Commissioner Alexandra Daum said.
In its final appropriations, $23 million was distributed among eight municipalities earlier this month. Those municipalities include Bethel, Bridgeport, Haddam, Hebron, Naugatuck, New Britain, New London and Torrington, according to a DECD statement.
“We had a maximum authorization of $100 million from the legislature, and we've spent almost all of that,” Daum said. “I don't anticipate another round. I expect that this will be the last round.”
Applicants complete a rubric with information on the project’s timeline, costs and design plans, Daum said.
“We asked for information about how they're going to fund the projects and why they think they need state funding, ask for the impact on the community and what this project is going to do to whatever the community is,” Daum said.
Each project that included housing requires a minimum of 20% affordable housing at 80% of the area median income (AMI), or 10% of housing, affordable at 50% AMI, Daum said.
Hundreds of apartments, many of which are affordable, will be developed as a result of the grant funding.
In Bethel, $4 million dollars will go toward developing 200 apartments. In Bridgeport more than $2 million dollars will go towards revitalizing the historic Post Office Square downtown, adding a dog park, event space and beer garden.
In New Britain, plans to develop a 100-unit apartment complex at the historic Strand Theatre site on Main Street were given gap funding of $4 million, New Britain Director of Planning and Development Jack Benjamin said.
“The main thing it does is it helps bring down the basic cost of the project so that a developer can more easily get it financed, which is critical, because with interest rates the way they are taking out more risky debt, then that's a harder thing to achieve,” Benjamin said. “Anytime you can get a grant that sort of provides that gap funding and helps bring down the basic cost of the project is a big deal.”
The Strand was a large, historic movie theater that opened in 1926 and was operated by Warner Bros. by 1941. The theater was demolished in the 1970s amid a decline in attendance.
The site of the former theater will be home to 100 apartments, 20% of which will be considered affordable, along with 3,700 square feet of restaurant and retail space.
The largest appropriation was for Haddam’s senior center and affordable senior housing. The project will transform the former elementary school to create a new Senior Center. Thirty-three units of affordable senior housing will be created.
Over the last two years, the program awarded more than $95 million in support of projects in 21 cities and towns. The projects are expected to create more than 2,300 units of housing, 300,000 square feet of office, retail and restaurant space, and at least 12 new public spaces.