A group of over 50 people including Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty, Mayor Erin Stewart, members of the State delegations and others turned out Tuesday for the groundbreaking ceremony of Columbus Commons.
In 2016, the City of New Britain designated Xenolith Partners and Dakota Partners as the developer of 125 Columbus Boulevard, the former site of the New Britain Police Department. The developer plans to create Columbus Commons, a two-phased, mixed-use development that will include two, five story L-shaped mixed used buildings with approximately 160 residential units, an interior courtyard, and retail and/or office space on the first floor. The expected total cost for both phases of the project is $58 million.
The location of the development is steps from New Britain’s downtown CTFastrak station and is one of the City’s first major Transit Oriented Development projects.
The first phase of Columbus Commons was awarded a $1.6 million Low Income Tax Credit allocation by the Connecticut Housing Finance Agency (CHFA) in June 2017. Bank of America will provide the construction loan, permanent loan, and also invest in the tax credits, generating approximately $16 million in equity for the project. Furthermore, the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) has already invested $2.7 million in Brownfield funds to assist with the demolition and environmental cleanup of the site in preparation for the project.
“Back in January, we launched a new City branding campaign—the first in more than 30 years—with the slogan “Experience the New” in recognition of the extraordinary changes that have come to our community over the last several years,” said Mayor Stewart. “There is none bigger than the one we are about to break ground on today: Columbus Commons.”
Stewart continued, “the individuals who will come to occupy these homes will bring a new wave of energy to our downtown area and contribute to the continued transit oriented development growth we are seeing thanks to the opening of CTfastrak, which is just steps away from this site.”
Additional housing opportunities invites new restaurants, services, and other developments, she said. “This project is the start of an exciting new era for downtown New Britain and I am excited to see this project finally come to fruition,” said Stewart.
Roberto Arista, principal at Dakota Partners said this is the first phase and once it is completed, the second will start immediately.
“This project represents an important step to New Britain’s downtown redevelopment effort,” said Arista. “This project is also important because it will be one of the first in Connecticut that will meet passive house standards. Passive house represents a new generation of energy efficient buildings that are less expensive to operate and reduce our carbon footprint.”
“This brings together a transportation policy and a desire to redevelop our urban areas, particularly on brownfields sites,” said Gov. Malloy. “A lot of folks were against CTFastrak. Ultimately we came to the decision CTFastrak was the right thing at the right time to get redevelopment going in New Britain and along the corridor. What we are seeing is beyond what we predicted.”
Malloy said in 2016, 5.5 million trips were taken on CTFastrak which exceed numbers expected in 20 years.
“This is a great celebration because of the size and context which it is happening, but it by know means the only development to celebrate along CTFastrak,” said Malloy. “Transportation will be the driving force of Connecticut.”
Congresswoman Esty said she was happy to see a place filled with asbestos remediated and become something the City needs.
“There will be more housing and retail with easy access to public transportation,” Esty said. “We know that is a winning combination in America and we need to do more of this in Connecticut.”
Others in attendance included Terri Belkas-Mitchell, owner; Xenolith Partners; Tim Sullivan, Deputy Commissioner; DECD; James Redeker, Commissioner; DOT Members of the City Plan Commission; State Sen. Theresa Gerratana and State Rep. William Petit.