Westledge Apartments rise from ashes of former Peachtree Apartments in Norwich
Norwich — On April 26, 2008, flames and smoke colored the predawn sky over Westledge Drive as a spectacular fire destroyed the 120-unit Peachtree Apartments complex, amazingly injuring no one, as neighbors and police pounded on doors and shouted to awaken tenants.
Just a few rocky foundation remnants of that 1970 complex remained visible in a corner of the 9.8-acre property at 2 Westledge Drive, as the family-owned development group Pledge Property Management this week showed off the state of construction on its $30 million, four-building luxury quad complex called Westledge Apartments LLC.
Alex and Jessica Gebbie, the husband-and-wife team leading the effort, said the site's transformation started amid the burned-out rubble of foundations overgrown with weeds and trees. The project required assistance from the city and the city's new federally designated Opportunity Zone.
The project is the first in the city to take advantage of Norwich’s Opportunity Zones, created in 2018 to provide tax breaks for private investors who help finance projects in low-to-moderate income census-tract zones. Norwich has three Opportunity Zones, including the one that spans the Thamesville and West Side areas between Routes 32 and 82 that includes Westledge Drive.
The city also agreed to a seven-year property tax phase-in for the value of the new construction on the property. The Gebbies thanked all city agencies, including planning and zoning and inspections officials for their assistance with the project.
“This project would not have been possible without the city’s tax assessment deferral and the Opportunity Zone help,” Alex Gebbie, co-owner and managing member of Pledge Property Management, said Thursday while showing the project to Mayor Peter Nystrom.
The Gebbies declined to provide details of the Opportunity Zone investment.
Nystrom said putting the detailed Opportunity Zone application together took many hours by numerous city departments and Norwich Public Utilities in the hopes it would attract business to the city.
"To learn (Thursday) that someone has actually done that is such a tremendous relief," Nystrom said. "You put all the work together in the hopes that it brings in businesses, tax revenue and jobs, and this has done all three of those things."
Westledge Apartments LLC purchased the property with the Peachtree ruins from former owner Peachtree Limited Partnership, headed by Jerry Brophy, in August of 2018 for $1.4 million. Westledge Apartments LLC obtained approval from the city for the same number of units, 120, but that’s the only similarity.
In October 2019, Zlotnick Construction Inc. of Mansfield started building the four-building complex, which includes 32 three-bedroom units and 88 two-bedroom apartments.
The new complex, arranged in a quad, will have a clubhouse with an indoor physical fitness room, outdoor pool and playground. Patios with picnic tables and grills will be outside each building, and all units will have private decks or balconies. Two 36-unit, three-story buildings stand diagonally from each other, and two 24-unit, three-story buildings will be diagonally across as well, with a grass courtyard between the buildings.
The first “pod” of 12 units in Building C is expected to open May 15, with the remaining 24 units in Building C to be completed by late June, Jessica Gebbie, project construction manager, said. Pledge already is receiving applications for two-bedroom units that start at $1,650 per month and three-bedroom units that start at $1,995 per month.
Only the foundations are in thus far for Buildings A and B at the front of the complex. The construction zone will be fenced off once Buildings C and D open.
Two detached garages, one with 12 bays and one with 18 bays, stand to the side and rear of the complex, each bay priced at $125 per month.
A model unit in Building C is equipped with a washer and dryer and appliances, but the Gebbies said it’s been difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic building boom and supply shortage to obtain appliances, shelving, and fixtures. The company purchased lights and fixtures for all 120 units at once to make sure they would have the matching fixtures, Alex Gebbie said.
The model unit also has a frame for a king-size bed set up in one bedroom — to answer prospective tenants’ frequent question, “Can it fit a king bed?” Alex Gebbie said.
All first-floor units meet handicapped accessibility regulations, with wider door frames, slightly lower counter heights and wall-mounted bathroom sinks. Two parking garage bays are handicapped-accessible.
“COVID has really boosted the rental market,” Alex Gebbie said.
He said some military families are applying for new units “sight unseen.” Navy families, Electric Boat employees, local engineers and professionals are interested in the new luxury units, he said. Pledge Property also owns the fully rented 129-unit Hills at Riverview luxury apartment complex in Taftville, which also will expand soon.
“We get interest from workers at all the big employers in the region,” Alex Gebbie said, including medical workers at the region’s hospitals.
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