Hamden grants third contract extension to developer of abandoned property


HAMDEN – As the city debates whether to go ahead with the project or seek out a new developer, the Legislative Council has granted another contract extension to the Mutual Housing Association of South Central Connecticut, the local association a nonprofit that is expected to build 87 units on the site of Hamden’s abandoned college.

Approved in 2015, the original agreement reserved the vast expanse of city-owned land at 560 Newhall St. for mutual housing, which operates under the nickname NeighborWorks New Horizons.

But the expiration of the contract in July put the future of the site, abandoned years ago due to contamination, in limbo. In order to reassess the plan, the council granted Mutual Housing two three-month extensions, one in July and one in October.

Then, on Monday, the board granted its third extension in six months, delaying a decision until April.

“The council is still wondering whether or not the mutual proposal is the direction in which they want to move forward,” said city planner Erik Johnson.

A request for comment was left with NeighborWorks President and CEO Tom Cruess on Tuesday.

According to Johnson, officials must answer two main questions in the coming months. The first concerns the question of whether the Mutuelle d’Habitat plan represents the best use of the site. The second concerns the abandoned gymnasium which is part of the complex.

When bringing the project to the city, Mutual Housing offered to turn the gymnasium into a community center. But as officials reconsidered the deal, Mutual Housing offered two new options.

“The mutual came up with a proposal that called for tearing down the gymnasium and replacing it with a smaller community center,” Johnson said, describing one of those options.

According to the other proposal, “the mutual would buy the entire property from the city, then rent the gymnasium to the city to renovate and then operate it,” he said, adding that the cost of the transfer of ownership would be $ 1.

The history of contamination at the site decreases its market value, according to Johnson, who said transferring ownership to another entity would minimize the city’s potential liability.

In this scenario, “the city has no permanent environmental liabilities associated with the property. All these responsibilities are transferred to Mutual Housing, ”he said. The “contamination has been repaired, but the city is trying to protect itself against any possible liabilities.”

If the city makes a new deal with the association, the development will be slightly different than originally planned, according to a conditions sheet provided to the Legislative Council in October.

The property would include 87 units instead of 99, according to the document, and 69 of them would be affordable.

More than half of those units would be in college, which Mutual Housing would reuse, Johnson said.

The new conditions also include a more specific schedule for construction. Johnson said the schedule has been adjusted since October.

“At the end of April, there will be a vote on whether or not to continue moving forward with Mutuality,” he said.

If the council approves the project, it will likely need a further extension and use the time “to draft a new land use agreement” reflecting the amended terms, Johnson said.


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