From the New Haven Independent:
The city has officially purchased a Foxon Boulevard hotel for $6.9 million, and is now busy converting it into a non-congregate homeless shelter that the Elicker administration said it hopes to open before Christmas.
And the housing authority has closed on its $21 million acquisition of more than eight acres of Union Station-facing vacant land that used to house the Church Street South apartment complex, and is about to embark on a year-long planning process to determine how best to transform that empty expanse.
Those two private-to-public property deals were recently recorded on the city’s land records database, marking major milestones for two government agency initiatives to put more roofs — both temporary and long-term — over more New Haveners’ heads.
Asked about the difference between the purchase price and tax appraisal for the ex-Church Street South site, housing authority Executive Director Karen DuBois-Walton said, “In determining our price, we considered the appraisal, the location, the potential for redevelopment and the importance of the asset as a transit oriented location prime for redevelopment and adjacent to our existing parcel at Robert T. Wolfe. Additionally, we were in negotiations with Northland and competing with at least one other interested purchaser.”
Now that the housing authority has officially acquired the former Church Street South site, DuBois-Walton said that the next step is to develop a “Union Square Transformation Plan.”
That will likely be a year-long project itself, DuBois-Walton said, funded by a $500,000 federal Choice Neighborhoods planning grant the authority secured prior to closing the cash deal with Northland.
The first public meeting to inform such a plan is slated to take place on Monday at 5:30 p.m. at High School in the Community at 175 Water St.
The idea is to identify not only what kind of housing can be established on the property, but what sort of community and residential amenities — anywhere from education, workforce development, job training, healthcare services, and/or entrepreneurial support — can be bundled into a broader affordable neighborhood development that would transform eight acres into what DuBois-Walton said will ultimately be known as “Union Square.”
Creating that particular blueprint is also a prerequisite for applying for a larger Choice Neighborhood Implementation (CNI) grant, which could award anywhere from $30 to $50 million to the development, according to DuBois-Walton.
That program is an extension of the federal government’s HOPE VI funding. While the latter provides grants to help rehab distressed buildings, CNI focuses, as the name suggests, on revitalizing entire neighborhoods.
DuBois-Walton said that she’s particularly optimistic about acquiring funding for the project through CNI because of the housing authority’s previous successes securing HOPE VI grants. Both Monterey Place, the 339-unit public-housing complex in Dixwell, and Quinnipiac Terrace, the stretch of two- and three-story homes full of affordable apartments along the river, were funded by HOPE VI, DuBois-Walton recalled.
“We have experience working with these big HUD grants,” she said. “There’s no guarantee that the planning grant leads to that,” she noted, but the planning process itself should catalyze “lots of conversations with partners so that we can go after the kind of funding we need.”
Read the New Haven Independent's article "It’s Official: City Buys Ex-Hotel For $6.9M; Housing Authority Buys Ex-Church Street South For $21M," featuring Elm City Communities.