A widely anticipated redevelopment project along Route 123 is back on track after its architects found an alternative to state funding.
Working on the Canaan Parish rebuilding project could commence as early as next summer with a federal loan, in addition to smaller grants, according to Scott Hobbs, chairman of the New Canaan Housing Authority.
The volunteer agency is partnering with New Canaan Neighborhoods Inc. to rebuild Canaan Parish, a 60-unit Section 8 housing complex at New Norwalk Road and Lakeview Avenue, in a single five-story structure and to construct a new, 40-unit structure of the same height. Both buildings would count toward the state’s affordable housing requirement.
With a Federal Housing Administration loan—rather than one from the state that’s no longer offered—plans can move forward with the project, Hobbs said when asked about its status.
“This complex will be very interesting in that the buildings will be big, but we were also able to maximize the green space on the property and gain the efficiencies of going ‘up’ versus going ‘out,’ ” Hobbs told NewCanaanite.com. “That is always the tradeoff, between height versus coverage and cost.”
He added, “We don’t think the buildings will present something widely out of character with New Canaan.”
Approved by the Planning & Zoning Commission last summer following weeks of discussion about early-stage renderings of the proposed new buildings, the project is expected to achieve one major goal of the town—namely, to ensure that New Canaan doesn’t open itself up to a loophole in a state law that allows developers to ignore local planning decisions in places that do not meet strict affordable housing requirements. New Canaan is never expected to reach a guideline whereby 10 percent of its housing stock qualifies as “affordable” under the state’s rigid definition, though the town by creating additional qualifying units at Mill Pond has earned four years of relief from the developer loophole. The Canaan Parish project would help attain a second four-year moratorium, and lay the groundwork for a third.
According to an update from David McCarthy, president of Heritage Housing Inc., a consulting firm assisting on the project, the Housing Authority and New Canaan Neighborhoods Inc.—which owns the buildings (the town owns the 5.2 acres there)—will be ready for full financing in early 2020, so that construction can start in June.
The first phase of the project should take about 11 months to complete, and the second and final phase would follow immediately and take another approximately 11 months, Hobbs said.
During the first phase, 48 Canaan Parish residents will stay in their apartments and then move into the new building, so that during the second phase, remaining Canaan Parish units will be demolished while the new ones are constructed.
In approving the redevelopment plan, P&Z praised a revised site plan, which provides a circular driveway running through the complex, a dedicated play area, spots for residents to gather outside and far more open space than it now has.
McCarthy said that officials have authorized architects to proceed with full construction drawings and that a set should be ready mid-fall.