Developer Pledges Progress On Former Edgerton School

New London — Developer Peter Levine said he hopes to replace the shuttered Edgerton School with 32 townhomes for “working families” by June.

Speaking at a community meeting Monday, Levine reassured residents the attached homes would be owner-occupied and sold to families earning an annual household income in the rough range of $35,000 to $55,000.

“These are not going to be sold to investors,” said Levine, owner of Amber Properties LLC of White Plains, N.Y. “The whole idea is to make a nice living environment.”

The development will be sited on a roughly 4-acre parcel adjacent to the temporary Jennings School on Cedar Grove Avenue.

After abatement of likely asbestos, Levine will knock down the 52-year-old school. He said recent tests showed the ground to be uncontaminated. “There is no issue with the soil,” he said.

While Levine plans to construct two- and four-bedroom homes, 24 of the properties will be three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom townhomes, which he expects to offer for around $200,000.

In a move some neighbors opposed, the modular Jennings School, the venue for Monday's meeting, was built atop an athletic field. Levine assured residents his development will not encroach on the field.

The Edgerton School property also includes a half-acre parcel zoned for a commercial use, but Levine said he hasn't decided how he will use that land.

Levine doesn't yet own the Edgerton School property. He has a contract with the city to purchase it for $325,000 and has paid the city a non-refundable 10 percent portion of the price.

Levine said Monday he estimates the development will cost about $7.5 million and will utilize modular construction to keep prices down in the sagging housing market.

He said he expects home sales to net about $6 million, and he is relying on state funds to fill most of the financing gap.

“This is the only way the project will get built, and the only way these houses will be affordable to working families,” said Levine, who spoke from the Jennings School cafeteria.

Levine said he plans to apply in the upcoming weeks for $1.4 million from the state's Housing Trust Fund, which is administered by the state Department of Economic and Community Development.

Levine said he is confident the housing development will receive a high enough score to receive the funds.

“I'm an A student,” he said.

He said he also expects to receive a $400,000 affordable-housing loan from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston.

Levine's townhouse project is a significant departure from his earlier Edgerton School visions, which proposed around 90 rental apartments and a commercial building of more than 5,000 square feet. In 2006, Levine sought city tax abatements and offered $100,000 less than the $325,000 offer.

His current contract with the city doesn't include tax abatements. “There are no tax breaks at all,” he told residents.

In 2006, the New London School District closed the Edgerton School as part of its ongoing plan to consolidate the city's elementary schools. In March 2007, the City Council, voting 6-0, authorized to sell to Levine based on his plans for 32 townhouse condominiums.

Levine, who lives in Westchester County, N.Y., has previously rehabilitated two New London properties.

He converted the former SNET building at 73 Washington St. into 28 apartments, and he developed the dilapidated United Electric building at 13 Washington St. into 13 loft apartments and attached retail space, which houses the Bean & Leaf coffee shop and the newly opened Treehugger Organic Salon.
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