Class photo inspires developer’s vision for Project Middletown


MIDDLETOWN – A photo of JR Hargreaves and his classmates from Snow Elementary School is much of the inspiration for the developer’s vision to create a multi-purpose building that will combine residential units with a business incubator and event spaces, and much more.

The project consists of an adaptive reuse of the former 20,000 square foot professional building, ice rink and furniture store at 545-47 Main Street.

Hargreaves, who grew up in Middletown, says the diversity of his fifth-grade class photo inspired the project.

“It was such a diverse elementary school,” said the 40-year-old biracial developer.

“This is what I want the space to be: a space for people who have historically been left behind. I want to create a safe space for the BIPOC community where they can relax and set up their businesses, live and attend an event, ”he said.

This dream is reminiscent of the old Hargreaves neighborhood, he said.

“I had everything in my community. It didn’t matter your race. We would play together and hang out with each other. Today we need to help each other.

What is called 545 Main Street is a public-private partnership, he said. The project developer, who has not been named, self-funded the pre-development work for the acquisition, initial demonstration and clean-up of the property, estimated at $ 800,000.

The total development cost is approximately $ 4.1 million.

The project includes the creation of seven “workforce” residential units and over 12,000 square feet of program and office space on the lower level.

Hargreaves has requested a 10-year tax break for the apartment portion only, as part of the facility will be occupied by a non-profit organization expected to sign a 50-year lease, according to Director of Economic and Community Development Joseph Samolis . The name of the organization has not yet been released.

“Ultimately, the property’s value for the residential would be fixed over a 10-year term, at the current value of the residential part of the building at the estimated value at the end of the deal,” Samolis said. “The value of the residential is estimated at $ 560,000. “

The project was unanimously approved at the last meeting of the Economic Development Commission. It should be on the November Common Council agenda for approval, Samolis said.

Hargreaves was born in Middletown and attended public schools and Middletown Adult Education. He lived in social housing – in Santangelo Circle and Daddario Road – until he graduated from college, he said.

The developer, who bought the building in November 2020, said he was carrying out larger projects such as these often draw criticism.

“Whenever people see a project, they are always staring or skeptical. I was born and raised here, I live in the city, I walk the streets here, so whatever I do, I want it [approval]of the city, ”he said. “I think people will see this when the project is finished. “

“I want to congratulate you for coming back to the community you grew up in, for investing a fair amount of money in this acquisition and for focusing on giving back to your community,” said the town councilor. Jeanette Blackwell at the meeting.

It is indeed an ambitious project, said Hargreaves, but he is up to the challenge. “I’ve always dreamed of doing bigger things. I think we have the right municipal leadership, the right community. For me it’s risky, but I really believe in Middletown for the long haul.

Two businesses will occupy the basement of the street-side building, one of which will be an agricultural research / sustainability / education lab, and the other, an integrative medicine podcast studio.

On the first floor, Hargreaves provides a start-up / incubator space for entrepreneurs with technical, educational and social impact – similar to those found at the city-owned RM Keating Historic Business Park in the North End.

There will also be a space where there will be practitioners, such as a chiropractor or an acupuncturist, he said.

On the second floor of the old medical building, there will be six “workforce accommodation” apartments and one on the third floor.

Residential units will be income limited to people earning up to 120% of the region’s median income designated by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Hargreaves is committed to “a 100% commitment to disadvantaged local entrepreneurs by providing the best office space and support resources at affordable, below-market prices,” according to its presentation.

The non-profit organization will oversee and implement an urban sustainability and food systems program, shared space and resources for small start-ups and small businesses, health and wellness program spaces and a versatile creative space, said Hargreaves.

Hargreaves said he knows of recent college graduates who earn less than $ 50,000 and cannot afford apartments in Middletown. They are also not eligible for affordable housing.

“So where do they live? I want to make sure Middletown has residential options for people so that we can retain talent and keep people in Middletown. These people will walk on Main Street, passing their dollar around Main Street. If you look nationally at workforce housing, there is a need for this population, ”said the developer.

The old ice rink will house a tea room run by a local entrepreneur. It will also include four to six retail or work spaces, he said.

The project is overseen by Northeast Collaborative Architects of College Street. The company also designed the six-story apartment building on Court and Broad streets.

“There is something special about Middletown and there is so much more to do,” said Hargreaves. “I hope this project is the start of the next chapter in what we can do for the community.”

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