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Oak Tree Village opens in Griswold

A new housing development in Griswold is targeting low- and moderate-income tenants.

Phase one of Oak Tree Village opened in early March, featuring 72 one- and two-bedroom units in what the developer, Massachusetts-based Dakota Partners, described as garden-style buildings, utilizing traditional New England architecture. There are two three-story buildings, as well as a separate clubhouse, which will include office space for management, as well as a recreational work-out area for tenants. There is also a small outdoor playscape for children.

Twenty-three of the apartments have been set aside for those tenants making at or above 70 percent of Average Median Income, or AMI, which is considered market-rate. The remainder are listed under the traditional “affordable” category, according to Dakota Development Director Muammar Hermanstyne. However, he says the goal is to provide affordable housing for people of various income levels.

“Every single unit is largely affordable,” he said. “We want to create affordability for those making 25 percent AMI and those making 120 percent AMI, and allow all to live together in a community.”

Oak Tree is located in a highly accessible area. It’s on Route 164, just west of Interstate 395. It’s within walking distance of the town’s schools (Dakota Partners paid for the construction of sidewalks to the school campus), and there are plans to put a SEAT bus shelter at the entrance to the housing complex. Dakota also covered the cost of extending water lines to the site.

The apartments were built utilizing Passive House standards, which provide extensive insulation, heat-recovery ventilation systems, and other features to make the buildings very energy-efficient.

“There seems to be a lot of interest from people looking to move there,” according to Griswold First Selectman Todd Babbitt. “The town’s been getting a lot of calls as to how to submit applications.”

One of the first tenants at Oak Tree, who would only give her first name Lisa, said she moved from Killingly, along with her husband and her two young children. She says it’s very nice but rather quiet right now, as some tenants haven’t moved in yet, and other apartments remain vacant.

She said she was told her family acquired the last available market-based apartment.

“The market rates for the rentals are in common with the average blue-collar worker in the area,” said Town Planner Mario Tristany. “It fills that housing void for low- and middle-income families.”

Tristany noted it should also help further development in the area.

“A study done a few years ago showed the Route 164 corridor was deemed to be the prime area for the town’s commercial development,” he said. “We had received some inquiries from supermarket entities, but it was determined there wasn’t enough population in the immediate area to sustain such development. (Dakota Village) makes it more appealing.”

Both town officials praised Dakota and its project contractor Avery, based in Somers, for getting the job done right. “They’ve been up front with us 100 percent,” said Tristany. “Any issue that came up, they got right on it. I’m also really impressed at how fast the project developed.” It took 14 months to build.

The housing project received no tax abatements from the town, but did receive tax credits through the state. It also needed zoning approval through a special “workforce assisted housing district” designation that the state allows.

Construction of the second phase of the project, which will add another 72 apartment units, is still awaiting state approval and funding. The group has had a lot of experience building residential housing, constructing numerous multi-family rental and condo communities in New England and the Mid-Atlantic, a lot of them similar to Oak Tree Village.

They have another Connecticut housing complex in New Britain.

The Oak Tree project isn’t the only one that’s targeted for Route 164. Construction of a new recreational vehicle center is expected to begin sometime this spring next to the Exxon gas station just east of I-395. Tristany says Massachsetts-based Flagg R.V. will offer storage space, and a repair facility for R.V.’s. Zoning approval was granted last year. A proposal to build an assisted living center could begin construction by next spring.

Town residents in 2019 approved bond measures that provide for new water and sewer line extensions along Route 164, and sewer extensions along Route 201, in an effort to spur economic development.

Babbitt said federal funding for those projects hasn’t come through yet, but is very close to approval. He said there’s been a lot of interest in land along 164, with “three or four large parcels that are under contract for development that’ll move forward rather quickly,” once work on the infrastructure improvements can proceed.

Information on available rentals can be obtained by calling (617) 209-5432 or emailing info@oaktreevillagehomes.com.

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