Affordable Housing, Community Development, Reports and Publications

Mixed-use Development: Lessons for Connecticut

 

The Partnership for Strong Communities’ recent IForum, “Mixing Uses, Income, Vitality: Case Studies from Neighboring States,” explored the complexities of creating mixed-use developments in Brattleboro, Vermont, and Reading, Mass.

The lessons learned at the IForum have application in CT, as evidenced by the more than 100 municipal planners, community development directors, developers and state housing officials who attended.

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In Brattleboro, Bob Stevens, principal of Stevens & Associates and member of The Brooks House Development Team, said designers were challenged with an aging population, a low median income and a fire that increased development costs. Funding eventually came from 11 sources, including New Markets Tax Credits and Historic Tax Credits.

In Reading, a former grocery store became 30 Haven, a transit-oriented friendly development of residential units and retail establishments, with an underground parking garage. The plan was developed after townsfolk participated in World Café discussions, where planners discovered the pathway to smart growth zoning included a vibrant downtown and smart mixed-use zoning, said Reading Town Manager Peter Heichenbleikner. Chryse Gibson, of Oaktree Development, said the committed tenants include, so far, a yogurt shop and a pediatrician’s office and the residential tenants include a mix of young professionals, downsizing baby boomers, couples without children and single parents.

In both Brattleboro and Reading, several lessons were clear:

  • State involvement is often crucial in leveraging subsidy dollars and private investment for mixed-use development.
  • Massachusett’s 40R program, the model for the HOMEConnecticut municipal incentive program to create mixed-income housing, worked as designed by:
  • Allowing the housing developer to make enough profits on the market-rate units (80% of the total) to more than cover any costs in making 20% of the units affordable at 80% AMI.
  • Providing the developer with certainty about what density and design features Reading wanted in the development, sufficient density to spread its land costs over enough units, and as-of-right zoning so the developer was not delayed by the typically lengthy municipal approval process.

Moreover, Reading’s Hechenbleikner said town residents were motivated less by lump sum payments to the town for creating the 40R zoning than the ease of using a statute that allowed the town to design what residents wanted and know they would get exactly that.

The event was moderated by Dara Kovel, Vice President - Multifamily Housing at Connecticut Housing Finance Authority.

Presentations from the forum:

Click here for more on the Partnership’s upcoming IForums.
 

 
 

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