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Historic Credits For Fairfield Hills Moving Along



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First Selectman Jeff Capeci reported to both the Board of Selectmen on April 1 and the Board of Finance on April 8 that the town’s application for historic credits to allow renovation of two Fairfield Hills campus buildings is “going well.”

Capeci said he, Economic and Community Development Director John Voket, Economic Development Commission Chairman Jeffrey Robinson, and representatives from WinnCompanies, the Boston-based developer that will renovate the two buildings, went to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) hearing at the Capitol in late March.

“It went very well,” Capeci said.

The application was before SHPO as the campus is on the state historic register. SHPO would be the same organization that would review changes should the campus be placed on the federal historic register, according to Stacey Vairo, of Preservation Connecticut.

Capeci said that the only concern expressed was from the military, which has a dog training facility on the campus. They were concerned they would not be able to build any new training facilities. However, Capeci said that the approval of the credits would not affect any new building, just disallow demolition of old buildings.

Capeci said he invited representatives from the dog training facility to come and speak with him and representatives from Winn Development.

If approved, the main change beyond allowing Winn Development to renovate Shelton and Kent houses would be that the town would not be able to demolish any buildings during a certain period of time.

The federal process would designate the campus and all buildings currently standing as historically significant, and the town would not be able to demolish any of the buildings during the time the project is being worked on and for five years after, or the federal Parks Service, which would award the historic credits, can “claw back” the money. The current time line from Winn estimates that Kent and Shelton would be renovated by the end of 2025 and the claw back period would end at the end of 2030.

Town officials currently believe none of the buildings on the campus are so structurally unsound that they may become compromised before 2030 and need to be demolished.

Sources of funds for this project include federal Historic Tax Credits, state Historic Tax Credits, and Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC). It is expected that historic tax credits will make up 25% of total project funding.

The rest of the project will be paid for by WinnDevelopment, with no cost to the town. The town would sell the buildings to Winn but would lease them the land that the buildings are on.

For buildings receiving credit, the exterior space must remain the same and the interior space must still have the same look and feel as the original. For example, a school building would keep the lockers and classroom doors, and may not change the general layout of the building.

If the mixed use project moves forward, it is estimated that it will have a $25.3 million positive impact to Town of Newtown’s direct cash flow from now until the demolition bonding payments are completed, over the next 35 years. If the mixed use buildings are renovated, it is estimated that the town will bring in $20,070,555 in revenue, with $31,659,976 in expenses, for a net cash loss of $11,589,420 over those 35 years.

If the mixed use buildings are not renovated, it is estimated that the town will bring in $1,612,814 in revenue versus $38,477,451 in expenses, for a net cash loss of $36,864,638.

The difference between the two is the $25.3 million positive impact, as the town will see a much smaller cash loss on the Fairfield Hills property with the mixed use buildings. The expenses are mostly in the cost of demolishing the unused buildings, and are estimated to be larger without the mixed use buildings as Kent and Shelton houses would eventually have been demolished as well.

The company completed its most recent adaptive reuse project in Connecticut in 2020, when it transformed the former East Haven High School building into mixed-income housing — an effort that earned multiple national awards for development, environmental sustainability, and community impact.

In other finance board news, Community Center Director Matt Ariniello came before that board for approval of a $40,000 appropriation for an investigation of damage occurring at the Aquatics Center pool.

The pool deck in the Aquatics Center has been developing fissures, and the pool itself has been cracking. While Ariniello determined that the pool itself is not moving, the deck does appear to be shifting and the investigation into why will assist the town in making an insurance claim to CIRMA.

Ariniello noted to the BOF that while he did talk about value engineering of the Community Center when discussing the damage to the pool area at a recent Board of Selectmen meeting, there was no evidence yet that anything cut from the project by value engineering had a direct impact on the damage the pool is currently sustaining.

The finance board approved the appropriation unanimously. It must still gain the approval of the Legislative Council, which next meets on April 17.

Comments are open. Be civil.
  1. bw.reloconsult@snet.net says:

    Progress is painfully slow in Newtown It will be at least 10 years that we have or are being blocked from taking down decaying buildings on the Campus. It one townhouse in year ten used the credits it will be another 5 years of no building removal. But they can build a 3 story garage for 300 cars tomorrow. I’m not convinced this is what the Newtown Voters really expected.

  2. ll says:

    I believe the 2 buildings will contain approximately 169 apartments many of which will be low income and add anywhere from 169-338+ cars driving and parking on that campus everyday. Sounds like a congested nightmare.

  3. bodie says:

    Until this point, planned activities on the campus have not been tightly controlled. Moving forward stricter regulations will be put in place for both planned activities and violation of no parking signs.

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