Those overseeing a major rebuilding project on Route 123 in New Canaan say they’re preparing to file for a federal loan in hopes of starting construction in June or July.
The estimated $45 million Canaan Parish project “is moving along nicely” and a Federal Housing Authority loan commitment could be in hand within about two to three months, 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.
Unanimously approved in August 2018 by the Planning & Zoning Commission, the project involves “taking an older, out-of-date structure that we are going to demolish and building a much more state-of-the-art, better energy efficiency [residence] with the green space that we now know people need, in a combination of different-sized units,” said Arnold Karp, a local builder who serves on the New Canaan Neighborhoods project committee.
“So we are really taking something that had outlived its useful life and updating that,” Karp said. “The beauty is we can update it because we are getting federal funds, but it also allows us to build a little different format for that. The old format was townhouses with flats above. This will allow multistory building.”
Hobbs added that the new structures also will offer elevators and single-floor living, “which is beneficial for the disabled and elderly.”
The more modern building also is important in that all units will help New Canaan earn a four-year moratorium from the state’s cumbersome affordable house statute, and get close to earning another moratorium after that, Hobbs said.
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, officials have said 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.
P&Z approved the project following weeks of discussion about early-stage renderings, but the project’s viability became uncertain last spring as hoped-for state funding fell through. A few months later, the FHA loan plan materialized.
Hobbs and Karp credited New Canaan’s Chris Hussey in securing the original financing for Canaan Parish when it was built 40 years ago.
“If she had not led that effort and made this possible, there’s almost no way it would happen today,” Hobbs said. “We all owe a big debt. We’ve been able accomplish what very few communities can. She was on the first building committee [for Canaan Parish], and she was on this.”
Asked what sort of feedback the residents of Canaan Parish are saying about the rebuilding project, Karp said the management company there “is telling us that any change is difficult.”
“On the other hand, people are excited to move into newer units that are larger, have better lighting, an elevator and newer laundry,” he said. “Again, change is difficult for people but this is sort of the right change, and while it’s difficult for some, most signed on and it’s the right project of the time.”