Former Edgerton School bought as replacement site for Crystal Avenue high-rise
New London — The former Edgerton School property was sold on Monday to a nonprofit Massachusetts group that is working on plans for a development to house the 124 families now living at Thames River Apartments, a low-income high-rise housing complex off Crystal Avenue.
Affordable Housing and Services Collaborative, Inc., under the name FW Edgerton LLC, purchased the property for $600,000, according to city records.
“This is an exciting moment,” said New London-based attorney Robert Reardon, who represented the more than 300 tenants in the 124-unit Thames River Apartments in a decade-long legal battle over what he called unsanitary and unsafe conditions.
The New London Housing Authority, which manages the complex under an agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, entered into a stipulated agreement signed by a Superior Court judge in 2014 that calls for the rehabilitation or redevelopment of the high-rise apartments.
Affordable Housing and Services Collaborative was enlisted by the New London Housing Authority to seek a site to relocate tenants at the Crystal Avenue high rises. The likely outcome after the move, according to Reardon, is that the high-rises are torn down.
The former Edgerton School, a 3.3-acre site at 120 Cedar Grove Ave., was the proposed site of a community center. Up until last week the property was under consideration for purchase by the city, but members of the City Council and a citizens' petition against the purchase helped to kill the city’s opportunity to purchase the property for $350,000 in a proposed deal with owner Peter Levine.
An opportunity arose, Reardon said, when it became clear the city would not purchase the former school.
“We have 124 families that need to be relocated. It’s been difficult because the city has limited available land,” Reardon said. (The development) is something I’m 100 percent behind.”
Affordable Housing and Services Collaborative President and Executive Director Michael Mattos said the nonprofit group is planning a presentation to tenants at Thames River Apartments, who had not yet been informed of the sale.
“The goal is to create quality affordable housing that blends in and adds to the neighborhood,” Mattos said.
Mattos said he expects it will take one to two years “before a shovel gets in the ground because of the funding sources we’re going after.” Along with local land-use approvals, the project's success will rely on state funding.
He said that once built, the proposed apartments will remain in private ownership and under management by a third party.
"We are a mission-oriented group, and this will be a transparent process," Mattos said. "We plan to work with all parties involved to make this a win-win for everyone."
Reardon said a big advantage to the city is that the new proposed development becomes a significant taxpayer. The tenants will have access to retail outlets and other amenities, such as the adjacent Veterans Field, as opposed to living in “an industrial area under the Gold Star Bridge,” Reardon said.
“That’s never been an acceptable site to live,” Reardon said. “This is an opportunity to eliminate an embarrassment for the city of New London. These were built at a time when housing codes are not what they are today.”
Reardon acknowledged that the city put in place deed restrictions when it sold the property to Levine.
“I think that they can be resolved,” Reardon said. “All they need is the cooperation of the city.”