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CT Construction Digest Monday December 19, 222

Despite supply chain, other issues, Salvatore remains bullish on Hartford as North Crossing development’s first phase debuts

Michael Puffer

Developer Randy Salvatore’s ongoing effort to build around 1,000 apartments just north of Hartford’s downtown was buffeted in 2022 by labor shortages, supply chain difficulties and interest rate hikes.

A court challenge has stopped him from breaking ground on the next phase of development.

Still, Salvatore said, demand for the 270-unit apartment building he has nearly finished next to Dunkin’ Donuts Park has been stronger than anticipated, and the red-hot rental market has led to higher rents than budgeted. Combined, these factors make him more upbeat than ever on the Capital City’s prospects, he said.

“The fact that we rented 190 to 200 apartments in the first five, six months at rates exceeding what we thought about tells me that if you build it, they will come,” Salvatore said. “If you build a great product they will come. I was bullish before. Now we have actual experience telling us that demand has outpaced what I thought it would be, so I’m more bullish now than I ever was about Hartford.”

Salvatore started 2022 as one of the great hopes for Hartford. Mayor Luke Bronin and other city officials are counting on the addition of thousands of market-rate apartments to pump new life into a city center that has seen its corporate presence sapped by the pandemic and resulting exodus of office workers to remote or hybrid work schedules.

The first phase of Salvatore’s broader North Crossing development around the ballpark was initially expected to debut before the first pitch of the Yard Goats’ 2022 spring season. Instead, supply chain holdups and labor shortages delayed the opening of the first 270-unit apartment building — dubbed “The Pennant” — until August.

In a mid-November interview, Salvatore said he expected to put finishing touches on the last of those initial apartments by the close of the year.

As The Pennant was readying for occupancy this summer, Salvatore anticipated rolling right into the next phase of construction — a 522-space parking facility attached to a structure with 528 apartments — on a lot just southwest of the stadium.

That hope was put on hold by a twist in a lawsuit filed by Middletown-based Centerplan Cos., the original developer of Dunkin’ Donuts Park and surrounding development. Centerplan was fired in 2016 by the city of Hartford after being accused of doing shoddy work that was late and over budget.

The city subsequently hired Salvatore to build apartments on vacant lots around the ballpark.

Centerplan’s suit — which contends it was unjustly fired and still has rights to build on the lots — gained new life in May, when the Connecticut Supreme Court ordered a new trial. Centerplan has sought an injunction against additional construction, at least temporarily delaying further progress on the North Crossing development.

CT Children’s massive Hartford campus expansion gains approval

Robert Storace

The Hartford Planning & Zoning Commission on Tuesday gave its final approval to a $280 million expansion plan that will reshape Connecticut Children’s Washington Street campus in Hartford.

The expansion will be anchored by a new 195,000-square-foot, eight-story patient tower that will include a new fetal care center, 50 NICU beds and expanded capacity for cellular gene therapy, labor and delivery and other services. 

Currently, Connecticut Children’s Hartford facility measures about 321,000 square feet with 187 beds. The new tower will be anchored to the existing building.

A groundbreaking will take place in the spring of 2023, officials said, and the new tower is expected to be completed by the end of 2025.

Connecticut Children’s President and CEO Jim Shmerling has said the expansion will allow the care provider to grow existing services and launch new ones, including an effort to become a national center for fetal care.

It is being driven by increased demand for surgical and other children’s care and a lack of available space within the hospital’s main campus building, Connecticut Children’s officials said.

Connecticut Children’s, which is devoted solely to the care of children, said it plans to pay for the expansion by utilizing a number of different funding opportunities including philanthropy and structured loans.

Connecticut Children’s had originally submitted a master plan that included construction of a new parking garage and pedestrian bridge. But that was taken off the table, at least for now, after the Planning and Zoning Commission raised some concerns. 

Connecticut Children’s spokesperson Monica Buchanan said plans for the garage and bridge will be resubmitted at a later date under a separate timeline. The bridge/walkway would be owned and operated by a third party.

Norwich Public Utilities jump-starts lead pipe replacement project with state grant

Claire Bessette

Norwich ― In the 1980s, Norwich Public Utilities replaced all the lead water pipes in its water distribution system beneath city streets, but that work left untouched hundreds of older, privately owned water lines that run from the curb into residential and commercial properties.

Starting in Spring of 2023, the city utility will begin work on an estimated five-year, $5.65 million project to replace the estimated 800 private water lines already identified. A survey of the lines to be conducted early in 2023 likely will identify several hundred more such lines that need to be replaced, NPU officials said.

Last week, the state Bond Commission approved a $600,000 state grant through the state Department of Public Health Drinking Water Revolving Fund to jump-start the project by replacing the first 70 lead pipes that run from curbs into residential and commercial homes.

The Norwich City Council approved a $350,00 water revenue bond in November to be used to plan, design and survey water lines to identify locations of top priority for replacement. NPU General Manager Chris LaRose said that money will be paid for through a combination of state grants and loans paid through customers’ water rates.

Over the next two months, NPU will identify the first 70 lines to be replaced with the state grant, complete the water line surveys and put the construction project to bid.

Public outreach to property owners will be critical, NPU spokesman Chris Riley said, as construction schedules need to be coordinated, including access to private property and into the basements of homes and apartments where the lines will be replaced.

Property owners will be contacted by mail and telephone, and public information sessions with owners are planned for early spring, Riley said.

LaRose said building codes banned lead water pipes in the early 1970s, but hundreds of old lines remain in place in the city’s older housing stock and commercial buildings. In each case, the old lines, either with lead pipes or lead-soldered seams will be removed and new pipes laid in the ground.

NPU officials and state Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, co-chair of the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee, helped secure the $600,000 grant to replace the first 70 privately owned water pipes. She and NPU officials stressed the importance of the project to public health and safety.

“The funding approved by the State Bond Commission will be very helpful as NPU gets started on a critically important project,” Osten said in a news release announcing the Bond Commission approval. “Getting a head start on modernizing their water infrastructure in Norwich will have public health and safety benefits for generations to come.”

According to information on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, prolonged exposure to lead over time could pose several health risks, including abdominal pain, constipation, depression, distractedness or forgetfulness, irritability or nausea.

Exposures to high levels of lead may cause anemia, weakness, and kidney and brain damage, according to the CDC. Symptoms may go unnoticed if they occur slowly over time. Pregnant women exposed to lead may pass on the contaminant, which can damage the developing nervous system, to their unborn children, the CDC warning stated.

Eversource could put in new power lines in these southwestern CT towns

Kayla Mutchler

Kayla Mutchler

WESTON — New power lines could be coming to Weston, Fairfield, Easton and Bridgeport after a no-decision discussion with Eversource at Thursday's Board of Selectmen meeting. 

Abigail Bowersox, project manager for the 1714/1720 line rebuild project with Eversource, said that the project will rebuild a 9.4-mile long section of power lines between Old Town Substation in Bridgeport and the Weston Substation. 

She said the purpose is "to improve system reliability by reducing the risk of age-related failures from deteriorating lattice tower structures, as well as replace the conductor and obsolete shield wire."

She said that this line section is one of their worst performing circuits in the state due to "vegetation-related disturbances."

The lattice towers are about 68 years old, Bowersox said, and are not designed with current National Electric Safety Code standards. The current conditions make it a "high priority for replacement."

The project would replace the existing lattice towers with weathering, steel monopolies and the existing conductors with upgraded wires of the same voltage, she said. One ground wire will also be replaced with a fiber optic ground wire. 

Bowersox said 17 lattice structures will be replaced with seven structures over six locations. Those structures will be added because of the topography of the area and the needs to manage clearance requirements and meet current electric code standards.

In 2020, some trees were already removed in the area. As part of this project, there will be a few more tree removals and limb trimming, she said. 

"In Weston, the average new structure height is 108 feet tall, and the average height increase is 20 feet," she said.

The construction is expected to begin in the third quarter of 2023, Bowersox said. 

There will also be, and has been, stakeholder outreach including to property owners and tenants, businesses, local officials and state agencies through briefings and presentation, letters, phone calls and emails, door-to-door communication and a project hotline, she said. 

"Eversource is committed to communicating and working with all property owners along the project corridor," she said. 

First Selectwoman Samantha Nestor asked if any of the other municipalities have posed any concerns about the project. 

Steve Burger of Eversource said that they held briefings with the other involved towns, and their questions surrounded vegetation impacts and property owner needs.

"I think, speaking from an Eversource perspective, it is a needed upgrade due to... this being one of the worst performing lines, due to vegetation and the lattice tower structures exceeding their life span," he said. 

Selectman Martin Mohabeer asked how Eversource determines what neighbors are spoken to, as the poles might affect multiple houses. 

Burger said they have a list of homeowners who directly abut the right of way of the towers, though those beyond that area are welcome to reach out.

Ansonia, Derby get grants to turn brownfields into apartments

Eddy Martinez

ANSONIA — The hulking, rusted-out building on 501 East Main St. used to be the home of the Farrel Foundry, which city officials have long since wanted to turn into apartments. Now the state is working on making it happen with a $990,000 grant.

Economic Development Director Sheila O'Malley said the grant will be used for an assessment, remediation and demolition.

State officials recently announced a list of towns receiving grants to redevelop brownfield sites into apartments, including the $990,000 for Ansonia and $650,000 for Derby.The money comes from the state's Department of Economic and Community Development Brownfield Remediation and Development Program.

Some of the units will be set aside as affordable housing — a requirement of the grant — and while both sites have developers linked to the projects, the money would help with clean up costs and demolition. 

Both locations are considered brownfield sites, which are properties or locations that have soil contamination such as chemicals. The other location is a property on on 67-71 Minerva St. in Derby. The cleanup will lead to better health outcomes and economic opportunities according to Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes.

“Ensuring that these sites are properly cleaned up will contribute to safer communities and will open the door to significant economic benefit once remediated," Dykes said.

The Farrel Foundry project is being developed by Shaw Growth Venture, Inc. and will be completed in stages, according to DECD spokesperson Jim Watson. The first phase should be done in two years and the second phase should be completed in five years. An environmental assessment and remediation plan have been conducted along with a hazardous material survey. 

Derby's remediation project should be completed two years after the DECD contract is signed. Environmental site assessments have already been conducted for the Derby site, Watson said. 

These steps are needed before any construction is to begin, he said.

According to the release, 200 mixed-income units will be built in addition to about 20,000 square feet of commercial space at the former Farrel Foundry in Ansonia. 

Derby's project will be developed by Cedar Village Minerva Square, LLC which will build a four-story, 90-unit, mixed-income apartment building.

Watson said the exact amount of affordable units is still being worked out for both.

"Although plans are not final, both projects intend to set aside 10 to 20 percent of the units for affordable rents," Watson said.

But while the development was praised by local and state officials, Corporation Counsel John Marini questioned why Ansonia will be providing more affordable housing than wealthier municipalities. He said Ansonia is providing it without complaint but asked why the state legislature isn't asking wealthier communities to set aside space for affordable housing. The city had previously advocated for market rate units saying it would boost economic activity. The Bella Vista apartments which began to open earlier this year is a fully market-rate complex, also built by Shaw Growth Venture, Inc.

O'Malley, questioned state Rep. Kara Rochelle's motives who represents both cities.

"Why would our state rep want to have more affordable housing," O'Malley said.

Rochelle said she was supporting local officials' efforts, adding city officials wrote this grant application.

"I and Senator (Jorge) Cabrera delivered on what they asked for," she said. "But I will continue to advocate for any funds the city formally requests.”

The Farrel Foundry already received $1 million in 2021 for demolition, according to previous reporting from Hearst Connecticut Media. O'Malley previously stated the site was polluted with asbestos and other city officials said it would have been demolished by the end of 2021, but the foundry demolition which makes up part of the former Ansonia Copper and Brass site, has since been delayed by logistics according to comments previously made by Marini.

Derby Chief of Staff Walt Mayhew said he was happy with the funding. 

"We are overjoyed at the approval from DECD," he said. "It represents that final piece of the puzzle for the city and developer to move forward. We are looking to meet next week and formally execute agreements. The developer last we spoke was hoping to begin work in January should the state approve the grant."

Local leaders praise $15M to remove Kinneytown Dam


SEYMOUR – Environmentalists and river advocates received an early Christmas gift after the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments secured $15 million in federal funding for the removal of the Kinneytown Dam.

The U.S. Department of Commerce announced Wednesday the NVCOG, in collaboration with Save the Sound, has been recommended for funding for removal of the Kinneytown Dam through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Restoring Fish Passage through Barrier Removal grant program.

NVCOG applied for the $15 million earlier this year for the project which includes decommissioning the Hydroland Corp. facility, designing the deconstruction and eventually removing the dam and restoring the river, according to the NVCOG press release.

Kinneytown Dam is a hydroelectric facility on the Naugatuck River consisting of two dams with powerhouses in Seymour and Ansonia. It is owned by Hydroland, Inc. The powerhouse in Ansonia has been offline since before 2013, and the powerhouse in Seymour has not produced electricity since 2020.

Chairman of the NVCOG and Waterbury Mayor Neil M. O’Leary said the removal of the dam has been a seven-year project for NVCOG and the eventual elimination of the dam will have life-long everlasting impacts on the Naugatuck River.

“This is a huge environmental win, huge win of the ecosystem of Naugatuck River and every town that touches the river bank,” O’Leary said. “We’re very proud of this.”

O’Leary said getting the region’s federal delegation into the fight was the difference here before being able to apply for the grant as he pointed to U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Christopher Murphy, both Democrats, as well as Congresswomen Rosa L. DeLauro, D-3rd District, and Jahana Hayes, D-5th District.

O’Leary also said officials are grateful for Naugatuck River advocate Kevin Zak, who brought this to their attention and for his wife, Sondra Zak, as an activist for the river.

Zak is the president and co-founder of the Naugatuck River Revival Group and Supervisor of Waterbury PAL River Brigade. He said the water quality of the river is very good as volunteers have been pulling out tons of trash and debris.

“The aesthetic value of the river is safer and much better,” Zak said.

Zak said fish still aren’t able to migrate past the dam due to not having a free flowing river.

“Without the removal of the dam, the health of the river is always impaired,” Zak said. “It’s not a real river.”

NVCOG developed the proposed project in partnership with Save the Sound, and the nonprofit will be a sub recipient of funds through NVCOG, according to the COG press release.

Zak said the dam is killing a free-flowing river and it has absolutely zero benefits to the river but instead collects garbage and wildlife dies at the dam all the time. The health of the river depends on the removal of the dam, he added.

NVCOG and Save the Sound will negotiate the award and project scope with NOAA, the press release states.

O’Leary said the NVCOG, which is made up of 19 cities and towns, made a bipartisan unanimous decision four years ago to invest its financial resources to hire attorneys to get to this stage of the game.

“I’m extremely proud of our COG for showing this support,” O’Leary said. “Amazing to see everyone agree on a single path.”

Zak said the removal of the dam is going to change the river for a thousand years.

“The river is very forgiving and the wildlife is very forgiving,” Zak said. “They’ll come back. It’ll take some time. It will eventually heal itself but you have to get rid of the dam.”