By Bob McGarry, Haddam First Selectman
(August 17, 2023) — I imagine by now you’ve heard Haddam was awarded a $4.55 million Connecticut Community Challenge Grant to repurpose Haddam Elementary School. 26 municipalities submitted applications for the $23 million that was available. We were one of the eight successful applicants and received the largest grant amount. As I wrote when I announced the award, I was very surprised and pleased we were selected.
Before I get into the particulars of the grant, I want to outline what we have to do to accept it. The process we went through to apply, and will go through to accept the grant is basically the same we followed for the grants we received for the Scovil Hoe and Rossi properties.
The grants are administered by the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD). In order for our grant proposals to be competitive, we had to demonstrate their commercial viability. In other words, we needed a private partner (developer) interested in the project. In the case of Scovil Hoe we met with Parker Benjamin Real Estate Services. For Rossi, we met with Nutmeg Pharmacy. For HES, we met with Elm Tree Communities, which built Blueway Commons on Brookes Court. No commitments were made at these meetings; we made it clear if we got the grant we’d have to formally advertise for proposals from interested developers. That’s where we are now with the HES grant.
Our next step is to publicly post a request for proposals (RFP) for a developer. Since state money is involved, DECD has to approve the wording of the RFP, the developer we select and the process we use. We’ll work with the developer to draft a proposed agreement on the sale terms and design of the apartments. The proposed terms and design will be presented at two or more public hearings.
The financial aspects of the grant have to be discussed and approved by the Board of Finance. The Planning and Zoning Commission has to decide if the proposed use of the school is consistent with our Plan of Conservation and Development. The final step is presenting all of this to you for a vote. (For a more detailed explanation of the steps we have to follow to buy or sell real estate please see my article “Can the Town Sell HES Without Our Input?”, HK-Now June 8, 2023.)
What did we ask for in our grant request? The $4,550,000 grant funds a portion of the $8,396,500 estimated project cost for: 33 affordable senior apartments ($6,750,000), Senior Center ($850,000), whole building generator ($150,000), sidewalk to Depot Road ($178,000) and roof replacement for the old (sawtooth) section of the building ($468,500). The developer will fund $3,000,000 and we’ll fund $846,500. (Our funds include $68,500 from the state bond we got last year for the roof and multi-generational park. The $411,500 left in that bond will go toward the multi-generational park. It also includes $400,000 we’ve already budgeted for the roof.) We keep ownership of the grounds.
I know we’ve envisioned more at HES than this grant helps fund. We’ve talked about moving some or all town offices there, as well as our troopers and possibly HK Youth and Family Services. We’re in the process of hiring an architectural firm to look at that as was suggested at the HES open house on June 8, 2023. We’re also hiring a firm to design the multi-generational park taking into consideration the features we’ve discussed.
I know you need more information to make an informed decision about this proposal and the grant. I’ll be writing more about it in upcoming articles. The key thing to remember at this point is you get to decide if we accept the $4.55 million grant and move forward with the project. We have a lofty vision for HES and the grant helps us accomplish it.