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    Monday, May 20, 2024

    New Edgerton School owners start outreach in community

    Thames River Apartments tenants meet with Elizabeth Collins, top right, vice-president of development with Peabody Properties, Inc., Michael Mattos, top left, executive director for Affordable Housing and Services Collaborative, Inc., and attorney Robert Reardon, Jr., not in photo, of the Reardon Law Firm, P.C. at Thames River Apartment in New London, Wednesday, April 20, 2016. The tenants were shown plans for what someday could be their new home. (Tim Martin/The Day)
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    New London — The Edgerton School property may be the site of a community center after all.

    A community center was presented Wednesday as one of the options to accompany a 124-unit housing development the new owners hope to build there.

    Massachusetts-based Affordable Housing and Services Collaborative and partner Peabody Properties, who bought the property for $600,000 earlier this month, are hoping to relocate the tenants of the federally subsidized Thames River Apartments off Crystal Avenue. Two weeks ago the city was considering buying the land for a future community center.

    Unlike the existing Crystal Avenue high-rises, early conceptual plans for the Edgerton property at Cedar Grove Avenue and Colman Street show town-house-style units, some three stories tall, with on-street parking, private entrances and overall design that Affordable Housing President and Executive Director Michael Mattos said will blend in with the neighborhood.

    The site was chosen because of its proximity to open space, schools, a commercial district and overall neighborhood feel, compared to the industrial zone where the high-rises now stand, Mattos said.

    Engineers are now at work surveying the property ahead of actual architectural drawings, he said.

    Mattos joined with attorney Robert Reardon and Elizabeth Collins, vice president of development for Peabody, at two separate meetings Wednesday — one for tenants at Thames River Apartments and another for neighbors of the Edgerton property. It was an outreach effort to inform residents of their plans, introduce themselves and gauge reactions.

    Thames River Apartment resident Tyena Rivera, a mother of four, said her initial reaction to the news was excitement. She said she looked forward to moving to an area that was less secluded.

    “It’s a start,” she said of the presentation. “I have a feeling if we give them time it’ll work out. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.”

    Tenants at Thames River Apartments were part of a more than decade-long class-action lawsuit because of what they claimed were unsafe and unsanitary conditions. Reardon secured a court-approved agreement in 2014 that requires the New London Housing Authority to have new housing in place for the tenants by November 2017.

    New London Housing Authority enlisted Affordable Housing and Peabody to find a suitable site for relocation but had failed until the Edgerton School property became available earlier this month.

    “We’re going to get you out of this place,” Reardon told the two dozen residents of Thames River Apartments who gathered in a community room for the presentation.

    He urged tenants to become involved to help the plan past what are sure to be obstacles — things like City Council approval, hearings before land-use commissions and inevitably some pushback from neighbors.

    At a meeting later in the day, some neighbors of the Edgerton property expressed skepticism of a plan to house the 379 tenants from Crystal Avenue at the 3.3-acre site.

    “With the current deed restrictions and zoning, none of this is feasible,” said Dan McSparran.

    Resident Ray Freemer was among others to express concerns about security, traffic and parking.

    To address the parking issue, Housing Authority Director Sue Shontell said there are 88 parking spaces at Thames River Apartments and only two-thirds are used.

    Mattos said all concerns could be managed and addressed in time. Affordable Properties still has to apply for and secure federal and state funding to develop what is estimated to be a $40 million project.

    “We are early in the process,” he repeated at both meetings. “I think every problem people can think to throw out there we can work together to address.”

    One major benefit for the city, Reardon said, is that the housing development now on Crystal Avenue will no longer be tax-exempt once it moves to the Edgerton property and will become a large tax generator for the city. New London Housing Authority now manages Thames River Apartments but will hand over the reins to Peabody once completed.

    Collins, from Peabody, confirmed it would be taxed as any other housing development while tenants will maintain their ability to pay rent based on income.

    g.smith@theday.com

    Editor's note: This version clarifies that the proposed new development at the Edgerton School property would be taxable.

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