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Revitalizing a neighborhood by creating affordable, owner-occupied housing, while preserving historic architecture and boosting an existing investment - now that is one heck of a project. That's City Flats.
Developer and New London Harbour Towers project manager Tony Silvestri is now executing a vision he first began discussing several years ago, and it's exciting. It began with the goal of trying to improve the small neighborhood behind the upscale Harbour Towers condominiums on Bank Street. Units facing the waterfront were selling, but Mr. Silvestri was having trouble marketing the units facing the neighborhood of tenements, many in poor condition, along Coit, Blinman and Reed streets.
His solution is City Flats. The project takes the older tenements and slices them into single-floor condominiums. That makes the renovations and the units affordable. The exterior work is in keeping with the period architecture of the buildings, while interiors are refurbished with modern amenities and made energy efficient.
Last week Mr. Silvestri provided tours of the first, four-unit structure to be completed. Condo sizes range in that building at 48 Blinman St. from 650 square feet to 1,400 square feet, and prices from $80,000 to $128,000.
While originally motivated by trying to help sales at Harbour Towers, City Flats now very much has a life of its own, generating significant interest. Forty people have put down $500 each to get on the waiting list. Mr. Silvestri has initial plans for 31 units, but expects that to expand as he acquires more buildings.
There is much to like about this project. It provides a plan to improve the neighborhood without gentrifying it. This is working-class housing. As condo units fill, it can only help downtown renewal. Property values will rise as more of these homes are renovated. Generally speaking, those living in owner-occupied housing tend to have a greater interest in maintaining the appearance of a neighborhood.
Mr. Silvestri and the Tagliatella family, the investor, deserve credit for having the vision to undertake this creative project and pushing it to fruition. City officials should continue working with the developer to do what they can to assure this initial success continues.