August 14, 2019

CT Construction Digest Wednesday August 14, 2019

Norwalk Redevelopment Agency approves design for final Washington Village phase
Kelly Kultys
NORWALK — With groundbreaking scheduled for this fall, the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency approved updated recommendations for phase three of the Washington Village replacement project.
“Washington Village phase three is hustling along to get them into construction,” Susan Sweitzer, senior project manager for development for the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency. “They have finished their design and will be moving into their final permitting phase in September.”
The plans for buildings D and E, the last two to be built, were sent out for peer review, which was done by the Harriman Group.
“Our job is to compare the proposal to the design guidelines,” Steve Cecil, principal at Harriman, said to the agency’s commissioners on Tuesday.
The review found that the design was in compliance with the guidelines that are laid out in the South Norwalk Redevelopment Plan, according to a letter from the group.“We find that the design as indicated in the updated drawings is consistent with the applicable design guidelines, subject to the specific recommendations noted below,” the letter read.
Cecil said he’s seen improvements in the plans take place over the last few years.
“The site design really has advanced a lot and we think really positively to where the site was in 2017,” he said.
The plans have been updated slightly throughout the process as developer Trinity Washington Village Limited Partnership has decided to go with a new architect, DHK Architects, for the final phase.
Phase three is the largest portion of the project, with 108 total apartments split between two buildings. Fifty-four of the units will be public housing replacement units. The buildings contain a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, ranging in space of about 650 to 680 square feet for a one-bedroom to just over 1,300 square feet for a three-bedroom.
Phase one, which is fully occupied according to officials, consisted of 80 apartments split between two buildings, of which 40 are public housing replacement units. Phase two, which is under construction, calls for 85 apartments, of which 42 will be replacement public housing units.
In total, the site will contain 273 apartments, of which 136 will be replacement public housing units for the former Washington Village.
Cecil said that his group recommended very minor tweaks to the submitted plans, including getting rid of some of the grates in the stairways and making the corner bay units more appealing.“They are emphasizing more the corners with the bays,” he said. “They picked up on that and made this corner special. They really put a lot of attention in these bays. “
Cecil said that he appreciated the improvements that have been made to the design and layout of the site, including the courtyard and outdoor green space.
“This has really turned from being leftover space with some greenery to a real feature,” he said.
While it wasn’t included as an official recommendation, the Harriman Group did note that they would like to see a reduction in parking on the site.
“We noted the large proportion of the site that is devoted to surface parking, despite the project’s provision of parking below the buildings as a practical response to flood plain conditions,” the letter read.The group noted that the determination to have 130 on-site, open spots along with 82 covered spaces underneath the building came from a “zoning calculation” that met the city code. However, Harriman Group said that similar projects that are considered “transit-oriented development” have had less parking and worked out due to other available transit options.
“If a revision in the requirements could be accomplished and supported by the developers, then some of the asphalt paving could be converted to planted open space, which would be beneficial to the district and help attain a more sustainable development pattern,” the letter read.
Some parties involved in financing the project, however, did not support the reduced parking, according to Sweitzer.
“The experience of the other projects would inform the recommendation that the parking be reduced,” she said. “They did not want to bring this conversation to the table at this time.”
Still, she and Cecil said they were able to add some tree cover to the parking area to increase the green spaces.
The Washington Village replacement project broke ground in 2016 and aimed to provide residents with larger and improved living spaces, while preserving affordable units, bringing market-rate housing to the neighborhood and attempting to address flood-related issues. The project is funded in part by a $30 million Choice Neighborhoods grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Old Lyme voters approve $9.44 million Sound View sewer project
Mary Biekert
Old Lyme — In what was a “very high” turnout Tuesday, voters at a referendum approved a proposed $9.44 million project to bring a shared community sewer system into the Sound View neighborhood area.
Residents voted 883 to 565 to support the project.
The vote comes after years of planning by town officials and members of the Water Pollution Control Authority to create a sewer plan to service the Sound View area after the town was put under an administrative order from the state to find a solution to groundwater pollution it concluded was occurring there.
“We worked pretty hard to get to this point,” First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder said after Tuesday’s vote was announced. “This was really years in the making. The WPCA worked very hard for several years making sure that they took their time and were well prepared for this referendum. And I think the people spoke.”
The sewer plan, as outlined in the town’s Coastal Wastewater Management Plan, which was approved by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection in June, details installing a gravity-fed sewer system within the Sound View neighborhood and a neighborhood north of Route 156, known as Miscellaneous Town Area B, by connecting to New London’s wastewater treatment facility.
The project also is set to combine with another separate and ongoing project among the Miami Beach Association, Old Lyme Shores Beach Association and Old Colony Beach Club Association — all of which are chartered beach neighborhoods and considered separate municipalities from the town — by sharing one pump station and one force main.
Though voters approved allowing the town to bond $9.44 million for the project, only future ratepayers in the Sound View area neighborhoods — and not taxpayers in the rest of the town — are expected to pay back an estimated $7.44 million over 20 years at a 2 percent interest rate. Town officials have said the town is in line for earmarked federal-state Clean Water Fund bonds and grants that would help pay for “25 percent of eligible project costs,” bringing the cost of the project down to $7.44 million.
Since the WPCA announced its financing plan and how it would charge its ratepayers in June, future ratepayers, as well as town residents, have debated at public forums and over social media about the proposal. Future ratepayers in the affected neighborhoods have opposed paying for the bulk of the project and stated that it is a public works project and therefore all town residents should pay into it through taxes.
According to a charging formula that the WPCA passed during its June meeting, each equivalent dwelling unit, or a median-sized home, in Sound View and the Miscellaneous Town Area B will pay an estimated $31,007 to cover the project's capital costs. Homeowners could pay that amount, which comprises a betterment fee and a facility connection fee, in a full one-time payment, or they could finance it over 20 years, which equates to two payments of $944 per year, according to the WPCA.
Annually, homeowners also would pay an estimated $430 operations and maintenance fee.
In addition to the capital cost and the annual maintenance fee, homeowners also would be responsible for the plumbing cost to install the line from house to curb. According to WPCA presentations detailing the project, each foot of piping could cost between $50 and $100.
Now that the referendum has passed, Reemsnyder said Tuesday that the first steps for the town would be to go through a bonding process, as well as reach out to the project engineers to start the designs. Reemsnyder said she wasn’t sure yet if the project would be bonded out in phases or all at once.
WPCA Chairman Rich Prendergast said by email Tuesday that should the referendum pass, “there are a number of items to work on.”
Namely, he said the WPCA would need to sign a cost-sharing agreement with neighboring associations completing their own sewer projects — Old Colony Beach Club Association, Miami Beach Association and Old Lyme Shores Beach Association — to allow the WPCA and its ratepayers to use and share one pump station and one force main transferring wastewater to pipes connecting to New London. The WPCA elected to enter into that agreement in July.
Prendergast also said the WPCA still needs to sign intermunicipal agreements with neighboring towns to allow for the wastewater to be sent through East Lyme and Waterford to New London.
Additionally, Prendergast added that the WPCA also would be “reviewing engineering plans and costs, updating the property sewer assessments for any changes and submitting all of this to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to demonstrate progress and apply for our applicable funding.”
“There are more details and steps to occur, but these are the main issues,” he said.
Prendergast also said that he hopes the design phase of the project would be completed by 2021 and that construction would start by 2022. “But there are many variables that impact the schedule,” he said.
The WPCA will hold its next meeting at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Town Hall.

Construction to begin on pediatric dialysis center
Slade Rand
HartfordConnecticut Children’s will soon be home to the state’s first and only pediatric dialysis center.
Instead of driving hours to Boston or having to share a care center with adult patients, Connecticut children needing dialysis will be able to get treatment in Hartford.
Hospital leaders broke ground on the Robert R. Rosenheim Foundation Dialysis Center on the fourth floor of Connecticut Children’s Tuesday morning. They expect to finish construction in six months and soon after begin treating young patients from across the state and region in need of dialysis for kidney failure.
The Rosenheim Foundation donated $1.5 million to the hospital this year to fund the new center. It will feature three private treatment rooms, a patient training room and waiting areas equipped for parents. The center will provide care for up to 10-15 patients each week, with a staff of four doctors and more nurses trained in pediatric dialysis.
Dr. Cynthia Silva, nephrology division lead at Connecticut Children’s, said the center will specifically tailor its care to children’s needs.
“We are hoping to create something they actually want to come to,” she said.
Silva will be the director of dialysis services at the center. She currently works with Connecticut Children’s patients who have to do dialysis at pediatric facilities far from the hospital and said there is a clear need for the center in Hartford. She was happy to finally break ground on the center Tuesday.
“Many children in this area have been dreaming of this facility for a long time,” Silva said.
Fifteen-year-old Niyear Perez relied on adult facilities in South Windsor and New Haven for his dialysis treatment for more than a year before receiving a kidney transplant recently. Perez and his grandmother Virginia Robinson, who live in Waterbury, would drive to a dialysis center three times a week for his treatment, which was often provided by nurses trained to care for adults, not children.
They grew close to Silva over the years while she cared for Perez as he waited for a kidney. Robinson remembers instances of adult facility nurses having to call Silva to ask for advice, while Perez was receiving treatment.
“When [Dr. Silva] saw the stress it was causing to her families and her patients, she knew she had to do something,” Robinson said. “She really does care.”
Silva, along with Connecticut Children’s President Jim Shmerling and Rosenheim Foundation President Mike Samartino, knocked down a wall of children’s play-bricks to kick off construction on the center.
Samartino was a friend and longtime accountant of Robert Rosenheim’s, the foundation’s namesake. Rosenheim established the foundation with a mission of benefiting children, and the foundation received its funding when Rosenheim died in June 2015. Samartino said the $1.5 million contribution to Connecticut Children’s is the foundation’s largest donation yet.
“It’s exciting and I know Bob would have really loved this idea,” Samartino said.
Shmerling gave up his executive office suites to provide the space for the dialysis center. He said it’s rare for a hospital to repurpose space for clinical use, but the demand for pediatric dialysis and the donation from the Rosenheim Foundation made the expansion an easy decision.
“It makes the care more accessible, and accessibility is key,” Shmerling said.
The dialysis services will be covered by Medicare, which pays for the treatment of kidney failure regardless of a patient’s age.
Ed Stannard
NEW HAVEN — Union Station could be more than it is — a transportation center with a few fast-food shops — with downtown businesses such as Atticus Bookstore Cafe and Crêpes Choupette opening outlets and possibly a boutique hotel operating overhead, according to plans announced Tuesday by city and state officials.
The idea is to show off the century-old station to its best advantage, making it a “welcome mat” to New Haven, as acting city Economic Development Administrator Mike Piscitelli described it.
With 100,000 square feet of space in the station, “we think we can double and triple the space that’s rented,” Piscitelli said.
A brief tour of the mostly vacant west end and the empty second level that overlooks the concourse were intended to demonstrate the potential of the station.
“We have a lot of opportunity here, and April 5, 2020, will be the 100th anniversary of this Cass Gilbert station,” said Doug Hausladen, acting executive director of the New Haven Parking Authority and director of the city Department of Transportation, Traffic and Parking. Gilbert was the architect who designed the U.S. Supreme Court.
Hausladen called the plans for the station “a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the city of New Haven … and of course the state of Connecticut.”
“If we could attract the right boutique hotel operator, and we’ve been talking to a number of them, that would be an excellent use at the train station,” said John Pollard of REAL, consultant on the project with his wife, Karen Pollard. He said the hotel might utilize the fourth floor of the station, which “spans over the whole concourse.”
Karen Pollard said it could be modeled on the Crawford Hotel in Denver’s Union Station “seems to be working fairly well.”
While Piscitelli admitted that “we’ve had many contentious moments to figure out Union Station, the parking garage and the street,” the DOT and the city have been able to “create a true civic vision that’s well beyond us” and a plan “that can unlock the potential of this destination.”
Harp said that, with 1 million passengers using four rail lines that stop at Union Station, “the numbers associated with this place speak for themselves.” She pointed out that residential development across Union Avenue, where the Church Street South housing project has been razed, “will likely bring hundreds and hundreds of residents” to the area.
“With so much creative energy and growth potential in New Haven, it’s easy for me to see it as a retail destination, a restaurant destination and a ‘Let’s meet at the train station’ destination,” Harp said.
Now, two Dunkin’ Donuts, Subway, Sbarro and a newsstand are the only retail choices, but the owners of some of New Haven’s businesses attended Tuesday’s press conference and said they’d be happy for the chance to serve train passengers.
“New Haven is the capital of gastronomy here in Connecticut,” said Adil Chokairy, owner of Crêpe Choupette on Broadway and Whitney Avenue. But he said people coming through Union Station can get “an opinion of New Haven that is probably not true. It has to be an interface that gives the right image about New Haven.”
His general manager, Brandi Hawkins, said, “This should be a representative of New Haven and Atticus is a representative of New Haven. We’ve been open since 1975.”
Rich Andreski, chief of the DOT’s Bureau of Public Transportation, said, “Every day, 200 trains arrive and depart from this station and retail is a critical part of that experience.” Amtrak, Metro-North, Shore Line East and the Hartford Line all stop at the station. “We hope that one day it will also become a pathway for the development that’s happening across the street.”
One issue that has hung over the station is whether a second parking garage should be built to ease the shortage of spaces. Andreski said the garage still is planned but that state budget shortages are keeping it from getting built. He said a hotel would require more parking.
The garage is opposed by some, who see better uses for the $60 million to $80 million it would cost. “One of the key things to think about is, just as when you add a lane on a highway it leads to induced demand, the same thing is true of parking,” said Anstress Farwell, president of the New Haven Urban Design League.
She said the land is too valuable to use as a garage and that a corporate headquarters would bring both taxes and jobs to the city. She said using the state’s money to improve transit to the station would also benefit residents and commuters.
Piscitelli said a request for proposal will be issued in the fourth quarter and that the first and second floors could be revamped “with existing resources,” but that additional money would be needed for more extensive plans. He said “identifying tenants takes a long time” and would continue well into next year.