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Gateway’s second residential phase breaks ground

East Lyme — With plans to start laying foundations for condo-style rentals next to the soon-to-open Costco, the proposed second phase of the Gateway Commons residential development off Exit 73 is moving forward this month.

Town officials and developers confirmed this week that people driving by the new development between Exits 73 and 74 on Interstate 95 will soon see more buildings going up after developers recently broke ground and as they pursue finishing the last piece of the proposed Gateway Commons development plan.

That plan, which has been in the works for nearly 15 years and was passed by the town in 2015, includes the Costco big box store — currently being constructed off Exit 74 — as well as an already existing 280-unit residential development at Exit 73 known as The Sound at Gateway Commons. The second phase of those residential developments soon will be given a formal name, said Newton C. Brainard, vice president of development and acquisition for The Simon Konover Co. of West Hartford, which is jointly developing the Gateway Commons site with KGI Properties of Providence.

Some of the second phase residential units will be open to new residents by late spring 2020, Brainard said.

Phase II site plans outline constructing an additional 120 units just southeast of the Phase I units. But Brainard said Tuesday that the new units will be much different from the first ones — which include studios, as well as one, two- and three-bedroom apartments — completed in 2015.

Namely, the new units will be built as condo-style apartments to be rented, and not purchased, by future residents — a rental option not widely available in the region, Brainard said.

“This will be the only townhome rental product of its kind in the region aside from The Ledges (in Groton),” Brainard said. “It will be exceedingly new for the whole region, and there’s really not much of these in all of Connecticut.”

“What we are seeing in other parts of New England, specifically in the Boston suburbs, is that this type of product is really starting to gain steam,” Brainard continued. “It accommodates an aging population moving out of their own homes. They still want their own front door and more space, and typical apartment communities just don’t allow for that.”

Each unit in Phase II will offer residents more privacy and solitude, as each will include its own attached garage and front door, Brainard said, while residents presently living in Phase I units share stairwells and hallways with their neighbors in large apartment complexes.

Phase II buildings, which will be built in three different architectural styles — either as a “manor home” or two differing “townhouse” style homes — also will look vastly different from Phase I apartments, which were built as almost identical three- or four-story buildings holding 28 units a piece.

Manor homes will include one- and two-bedroom apartments, while townhomes will offer only three-bedroom 1,700-square-foot apartments. Townhomes also will each include 2.5 bathrooms and a back deck, Brainard said.

Brainard said his company, Simon Konover Co., which owns and manages more than 7,000 units throughout New England and other parts of the country, will continue to own and manage the Phase II Gateway apartments once complete. He said he was not sure of the units’ rental pricing, but that the current Phase I three-bedrooms units, as a point of comparison, are presently rented for around $2,400 per month.

With that in mind, he said those units are 40 percent smaller and offer less privacy, and that the new, bigger units will be priced accordingly.

“What you are really getting is your own front door, your own garage and no one living above or below you. Right now, we have 40 three-bedroom apartments built out in Phase I and many of them have been taken by many who are 55 and older because they are moving out and selling their homes. They want to rent and they want some more space. But it’s not perfect for them because they aren’t thrilled about living next to 14 other families. But when you give them this, it’s like they have their own home again.”

Plans for the second phase of the residential development have already gone before and been passed by both the town’s Inland Wetland Agency and the Zoning Commission last year. After a preconstruction meeting held between town officials and developers Tuesday morning, Brainard said developers are waiting for a building permit to proceed but expect to receive that soon.

The Zoning Commission approved in 2008 a master development plan for Gateway Commons and granted the developers in 2015 a revision to allow a total of 400 residential units.

Developers already have started clearing land at the 20-acre site. Brainard said that besides constructing a handful of both manor homes and townhouses, with more to be constructed later, developers also are building a club house, which will include a pool, and are extending East Society Road by another half-mile to reach the new complex.

Brainard said Tuesday that his company and KGI Properties have not yet started planning additions to the master plan.

“These are all our plans for the moment. We have to finish Costco and we have a year plus of this. So we are going to be laser-focused on just this over the next 24 months,” Brainard said.

He added, however, that the commercial aspect of the Gateway Commons masterplan does allow for about 425,00 square feet of commercial space and that Costco only takes up 170,000 square feet of that.

“So we do have the ability to plan for more commercial,” he said. “But there are severe traffic restrictions and we can’t really add more traffic into that area until the state comes in and re-does the bridge and the ramps.”

The Department of Transportation has said it will start Exit 74 bridge and interchange plans in 2021.

“We have to see how it all plays out. You have to be very confident in the state’s timing for all that, and I just don’t know how or when they are going to do it,” Brainard said.


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