Sidebar 2004 Revised The North End Plan- PDF Version

SECTION 13
ACTIVITY SUPPLEMENT:
THE RAPALLO–GREEN–FERRY ST. AREA
2001
Revised 2004

CONTENTS
  • Introduction
  • I. History of Planning Effort; Description of Area; Planning Context
  • II. Principles for Future Development
  • III. Concept of Future Development
    • A. Rehabilitation, Renovation, New Construction
    • B. Design
      • B1. Neighborhood Character
      • B2. Streetscape
      • B3. Parking
      • B4. Streets and Circulation
    • C. Mixed-Income, Mixed-Use Neighborhood
    • D. Property Management
    • E. Community Center
    • F. Outdoor Amenities
  • IV. Developers and Partners
  • V. Project Phases
  • VI. Funding
  • VII. Process
  • VIII. Attachments
    • A. Census Data
    • B. Acquisition Schedule
    • C. Schematic Plan
    • D. Conceptual Layout
      • 1) Proposed Rehabilitated and New Structures; Phases
      • 2) Proposed Owner-occupied and Rental Properties
    • E. Architectural Examples

Introduction

The Plan for redeveloping the area bordered by Rapallo Avenue, Washington Street, Main Street, and DeKoven Drive forms the subject of this Activity Supplement to the Plan of Redevelopment. In 1997, a grassroots organization representing residents, businesses, and property-owners in Middletown’s North End, came into existence. Since its inception, the North End Action Team (NEAT) has effectively involved its constituents in building a sense of neighborhood, giving them a stake in the neighborhood’s future and fostering the emergence of local leadership. In January 1999, NEAT established a Housing Committee, whose membership includes residents and property-owners, as well as representatives of local non-profit agencies, Wesleyan University, and Liberty Bank, joined by the Community Development Specialist in the City’s Department of Planning, Conservation, and Development. The Housing Committee’s detailed plan for the section of the North End most urgently in need of systematically planned rehabilitation and substantial investment, presented below, was endorsed in principle by the Middletown Redevelopment Agency in September 2000. After 2 years of work with limited progress the Agency determined the need to reopen the process. The Agency then choose the Richman Group as the multi-family developer and BroadPark as the homeownership developer. Both are highly experienced and well-funded developers with expertise in turning around blighted areas.

This redevelopment project promises to enhance downtown Middletown’s attractiveness as a place to live and a place to visit, to enrich cultural opportunities in the downtown area, and to engage more residents in civic life. Most significantly, it will give children in the neighborhood the opportunity to grow up in a positive environment. Because of the plan’s comprehensive nature, it will effect lasting improvement in a way that a piecemeal approach would not.

I. Brief History of Planning Effort; Description of Project Area; Planning Context

The North End/Central Business District Urban Renewal Plan of the City of Middletown, first adopted in 1990, revised in 1990 and again in 1992 and 1993, provides historical background on the area known as the North End and sets forth general principles and criteria for its redevelopment. Over time, the portion of the North End located between Main Street and the river has experienced particularly serious deterioration in its social, economic, and physical fabric; because of its relatively modest rents, it typically draws persons with very low incomes or on public assistance, including persons displaced from public housing. As the Renewal Plan notes, there has been a lack of consistent public and private attention to, and investment in, the area. A portion of the housing stock has become dilapidated, making for substandard living conditions. Some of the available housing, while not in poor condition, is in need of modernization. Code enforcement by the City has been impeded by absentee or uncooperative property owners and tenants. A number of buildings have been foreclosed on or condemned, becoming potential magnets for illegal activity. Children are exposed to harmful social influences and physical danger. The perception that the neighborhood is crime-ridden has inhibited business development. Residents tend to move out of the area whenever they can afford to.

According to the 1990 census data, the area has a smaller percentage of owner-occupied dwellings than any other part of the city, a larger percentage of persons lacking a high-school diploma, a larger percentage of the population on public assistance, and a much lower median income. It also has a higher percentage of members of racial minorities than the rest of the city (see census data, Attachment A, in Section VIII below.)

Counteracting the negative factors of housing blight, crime, and a disadvantaged and somewhat transient population are the following positive factors, among others:

  • The long-term commitment of non-profit agencies to the area.
  • The renovation of the old Arriwani Hotel to create an attractive supportive living facility, Liberty Commons.
  • The survival of the Buttonwood Tree, an active neighborhood cultural center, which was burned out of its original quarters but was able to move into space on the ground floor of Liberty Commons.
  • The commitment of the City to developing the old Remington Rand factory as an incubator for new businesses.
  • The longtime presence of O’Rourke’s Diner, which attracts a vital cross-section of Middletown residents and visitors.
  • A number of local retail stores with faithful customers.
  • The creation in the Central Business District of the Youth Center, which offers recreational and educational programming within walking distance of the North End.
  • Oddfellows Playhouse, also within walking distance, which provides numerous creative and confidence-building opportunities; Oddfellows consistently reaches out to low-income children and teenagers.
  • The nearby KidCity museum, which also offers an attractive cultural resource to neighborhood children and draws families from a wide geographical area.
  • The Community Health Center’s Home Room Program, which provides after-school tutoring, and tutoring by Wesleyan University students at the McDonough School.
  • The relocation of the Police Department to a handsome building on Main Street that gives it a more visible presence and convenient access to the North End.
  • The commitment of a number of responsible property-owners to the revitalization of the neighborhood.
  • Middletown’s success in procuring funding under the federal Main Street program, which has resulted in immediate physical improvements, enhanced marketing efforts, and longer-range planning for revitalizing the downtown area.
  • Underutilized assets: proximity to the Connecticut River, which recently gained federal recognition as an American Heritage river; the existence of a number of structures between Main St. and the river with significant historical character; space for additional residential units and public amenities; location within the downtown business district; employment opportunities within walking distance; a rail bed that might be developed to help solve some of Connecticut’s transportation woes (highway congestion and air pollution) and ease Middletown’s lack of efficient public-transportation links to the shoreline and to Hartford and New Haven.
  • The emergence in 1997 of the North End Action Team (NEAT), enabling residents and other stakeholders to work constructively to improve the neighborhood.
In May 1998 NEAT coordinated a charrette, or community workshop, conducted by the Yale Urban Design Workshop under the direction of architect Michael Haverland. Yale University students and faculty members, North-End residents, landlords, and business owners from the North End, and representatives from the City of Middletown, from local non-profit organizations, educational institutions, churches, and banks participated in an intensive two-day process to analyze the economic, social, architectural, and infrastructural needs of the North End. In its October 1998 report, the Yale team summarized the workshop’s findings and proposed some specific and some conceptual responses to the problems and opportunities identified through the charrette.

The successful redevelopment of the area identified by the NEAT Housing Committee as most crucial will create a mixed-income, mixed-use neighborhood, stabilizing the population, driving out criminal activity, improving the economic climate along Main Street, and increasing the likelihood that landlords with well-maintained properties in the North End will continue to keep them in good condition. The rehabilitated streets will serve as a model of what can be accomplished and an incentive to property-owners to upgrade their properties to meet the new neighborhood standards.

II. Principles for Future Development

The NEAT Housing Committee has established a number of principles to guide this redevelopment project. Many of these principles derive from successful efforts elsewhere in the United States and from suggestions that emerged from the Yale Urban Design Workshop’s charrette.

  • The project will seek to combine housing with compatible retail, civic, and cultural facilities to produce neighborhood vitality, including the kind of active street life that enhances safety.
  • Homeownership will significantly increase, providing greater stability and giving residents a stake in preserving the safety and attractiveness of the neighborhood. Broad Park will be instrumental in this effort and changes to this activity supplement have added more land for homeownership.
  • A combination of housing types and the use of a variety of financing mechanisms will make for an economically and ethnically diverse neighborhood.
  • Although relocation of residents will be necessary during the active redevelopment phase, the goal will be to provide housing for current residents who wish to remain in the neighborhood and meet tenant criteria (see III,D, Property Management, below), while making the area attractive to new tenants and home-buyers.
  • A concerted effort will be made to connect unemployed or underemployed residents with ongoing City programs for workforce development.
  • Compatible new businesses will be encouraged to establish themselves in the North End and to employ local residents.
  • Human services will be readily available and actively engaged in outreach to any residents who need assistance.
  • Collaboration with the Middletown Police Department’s community policing program will ensure residents’ confidence and involvement in the safety of the area.
  • Professional management by a company using a community-based property-management model will be instituted, to promote residents’ continuing commitment to the maintenance, appearance, and financial viability of the buildings in which they live and in the character of the surrounding area.
  • High standards of design and construction will be set for all new and renovated buildings, in consonance with the principles laid out in Section 9.1.2.1 of this Plan.
  • All new construction and renovation will be designed for energy efficiency.
  • Provision will be made for appropriately buffered trash and recycling containers.
  • If feasible, power lines will be placed underground to promote the attractiveness and safety of the area.
  • Through vigorous and consistent code enforcement, blight will be eliminated and prevented from recurring.
  • Ongoing interest and support on the part of the City and its agencies, community-based organizations, local schools and educational institutions, banks and real-estate companies, churches, and local leaders will be maintained to preserve the economically and socially diverse nature of the neighborhood.
III. Concept of Future Development

The North End Plan, includes the following specific elements:

  • A. Rehabilitation, Renovation, New Construction
    Final decisions as to which buildings will be renovated or rehabilitated and which will be demolished will be made by the Agency and the developers, and on the basis of the design for the neighborhood, which will be subject to approval by the City’s Design Review and Preservation Board. Some of the structures may be sound but do not fit the desired neighborhood character. Demolition and the use of vacant lots will allow for new construction. The Plan calls for a combination of single-family townhouses, two-family homes, and multifamily buildings with no more than 16 units per building. Renovation of the residential portions of additional buildings fronting on Main Street that are not included would result in substantially more units.
  • B. Design
    The design standards outlined in the Plan of 1990, and 1992 will be adopted. These standards include sensitivity to the historical character of existing structures, with original features preserved or restored wherever possible; maximum preservation of significant existing structures; and compatibility of new construction in style and scale with the surrounding buildings.
    • B1. Neighborhood character:
      The Initiative will create a village motif, allowing different types of housing to coexist in the neighborhood, with a mixture of sizes and styles, complementary to the overall design. The Initiative will create a neighborhood of congenial places.
    • B2. Streetscape:
      Adequate and attractive lighting, consistent with the village character of the neighborhood; trees, other plantings and landscaping elements; garden areas on the sides or fronts of buildings; porches, stoops, and benches—all encouraging residents to interact outdoors in good weather—and other facilities designed to create a neighborhood feeling and enhance residents’ safety are part of the design for the Project Area. Blending rehabilitation and new construction, the Initiative will aim for consistent frontage along the streets. Developers will be required to assemble image boards illustrating the range of design features that would fulfill the overall theme established for the neighborhood. These boards will be serve as guides to all developers considering investment in the area.
    • B3. Parking:
      Off-street parking meeting or exceeding accepted guidelines for the number of spaces per housing unit in an urban setting, which includes affordable units, will be provided for all residential units in lots or garages. Parking spaces will be shielded from the street or located behind buildings. The plan supports ongoing efforts to provide adequate short-term parking for the patrons of Main St. businesses and to maintain loading areas behind Main St. commercial and retail establishments.
    • B4. Streets and Circulation:
      Driveways will be added, bisecting the block between Ferry and Green Streets and thereby creating better circulation and safety and enhancing the village feeling of the neighborhood.
  • C. Mixed-Income, Mixed-Use Neighborhood
    The Plan will create an area marketed and designed to appeal to residents of all ages, educational backgrounds, income levels, talents, and interests. The neighborhood should be representative of the community as a whole, offering a variety of housing for residents, corresponding to their economic and family status at any stage in their lives. Housing types will range from affordable rentals to home-ownership opportunities. The latter can include market-rate units and cooperatives, along with low-interest-mortgage, urban-homesteading, and sweat-equity options. The Initiative foresees a particular opportunity for creating an artists’ enclave, marketing apartments, studios, and gallery space to artists. The cultural ambiance of the North End is further enhanced because of Wesleyan University’s commitment to leasing space for performance, classes, and studio work in the adjacent Green Street School.
  • D. Property Management
    Property Management including community-based management services will include financial screening of and checks on the previous rental experiences and legal backgrounds of prospective tenants; regular monitoring of the condition of rental properties; collection of rents; maintenance and cleaning of common spaces; and provision of security services. These management services will also be made available to homeowners renting space within their own homes and to landlords staying in the neighborhood.
  • E. Community Center:
    The old Green Street School building is being developed by Wesleyan University as an arts center. This will add strength and vitality to the neighborhood.
  • F. Outdoor Public Amenities:
    Pocket parks, a community vegetable and flower garden, the existing Lopez Herb Garden, and playgrounds will invite residents to relax, garden, play, and mingle.
IV. Developers and Partners

In order to involve residents, property-owners, and local merchants in neighborhood design and property management, the development and management of the project will be implemented by the Redevelopment Agency, North End Action Team, Wesleyan University, existing non-profits and the two developers, Richman and Broad Park. The Alderhouse project provides affordable apartments and studio space for artists. In conjunction with Broad Park, private developers with proven track records will be recruited for the development of parcels along deKoven Drive. These parcels will provide an opportunity to introduce market rate rental units and home ownership. The City of Middletown will play a key role in the project’s realization, providing gap financing, granting approval of the plan through the Redevelopment Agency and the Common Council, providing improvements to such infrastructural elements as utilities and streets, conveying City-owned structures and lots to developers, and ensuring their compliance with the redevelopment plan. The Middletown Housing Authority could also be a valued partner, providing federal housing subsidies to low-income tenants and possibly assisting with relocation and financing the project.

V. Project Phases

The Agency feels a comprehensive redevelopment of the area is essential. Richman will begin with the development with six multifamily buildings containing 96 dwelling units. These units will be located along the Ferry Street frontage and will include staggered setbacks and attractive buildings and streetscapes. Funding will be a compilation of City funds, CDBG funds and low income Tax Credits. 80% of the units will be available at 60% of Median Area income and 20% will be available at 25% Area Median Income. It is felt that this project will provide housing to existing residents and bring a number of new residents to the area and create sufficient stability and confidence in the area to attract potential homeowners.

Broad Park will concurrently assume control of the remaining parcels and will develop a plan for the creation of homeownership opportunities. The City will support such efforts with direct grants of money and land and will also provide the access to the City’s Down Payment assistance and rehabilitation grants and loans.

VI. Funding

The Redevelopment Agency designated Richman and Broad Park as the designated developers of the project. As such the developers are responsible for all predevelopment costs. Actual development funding may be sought from the City of Middletown, Federal Home Loan Bank, private investment, CDBG funds, local banks and their foundations, local corporations, HOME funds, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac programs, from low-income-housing tax-credit programs, and from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development.

In collaboration with the appropriate City agencies, the Housing Committee will develop a plan for needed City-funded improvements to the infrastructure in the redevelopment area. The City will benefit directly from funding these improvements: the increased value of the properties in the redeveloped area will yield additional tax revenue; improved economic conditions will stimulate the overall business climate in the City; and reduction in crime will result in savings on public safety and legal expenses.

VII. Process

The outcome of the negotiations by the developers will serve as the basis for the acquisition of privately owned properties, preferably operating through private market purchases, but, if necessary, through eminent domain takings. The Agency and NEAT will create a design oversight board, with representatives from the neighborhood and the City, to work with architects and urban-planning professionals on developing designs, subject to approval by the City’s Design Review and Preservation Board and the Redevelopment Agency. On the basis of these plans, commitments will be sought from funding sources.

This Initiative creates the challenge of working with multiple stakeholders. If redevelopment is to have the desired comprehensive impact on the neighborhood, the general principles and specific project features outlined above must be adhered to throughout the Area. Through its approval processes, the City will have the power to enforce compliance by developers and by current property-owners who undertake renovations. The Housing Committee proposes creating incentives, through loans and grants, to encourage landlords wishing to remain in the area to modify their properties to meet the design standards for the redevelopment area.

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