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Construction Begins on Affordable Housing Units

Groundbreaking ceremony held on April 20


By Lindsey Pizzica Rotolo

The weather on April 20 served as the perfect metaphor for the decade long endeavor to bring affordable housing to Norfolk. The morning began with a cold, plodding rain, but the skies brightened as 11 a.m. rounded the clock and the official groundbreaking ceremony began on the lawn behind 40 Greenwoods Road West.

About 25 people gathered to hear the remarks of Foundation for Norfolk Living (FNL) President Lou Barbagallo, Conn. Housing Commissioner Evonne Klein, First Selectman Sue Dyer, Tom Dorsey from Eversource and Lesley Higgins-Biddle, the senior program officer for Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC).

The emotion was tenable in Barbagallo, who has put in countless hours for over a decade to make affordable living a reality in town. While his list of people to thank was a mile long, beginning with current board members Katie Dougan, Leila Javitch, Kate Johnson, Kim Maxwell, Erick Olsen, Matt Riiska, Nina Ritson and Julie Scharnberg, Barbagallo said, “Among the best decisions we made was hiring LISC and Housing Enterprises.” LISC is a national non-profit organization that provides capital, strategy and know-how to local organizations. Housing Enterprises is a Conn. based firm that specializes in grant writing and administration. They both proved to be invaluable resources to FNL.

Commissioner Evonne Klein reminded the assembled crowd that Norfolk is not alone in its need for affordable housing—all 169 municipalities in the state have a similar need, and especially for family units. She praised the Norfolk project for keeping families in mind in its plans. Klein, who was appointed by Governor Malloy in 2013 in the newly created department of housing, credited the Governor for his great support of affordable housing projects (the state has spent one billion dollars creating 20,000 affordable housing units since 2011).

Tom Dorsey, the manager of government affairs for Eversource Energy, credited Barbagallo’s dedication to the ultimate success of the project. “It takes people with perseverance to make these projects happen, and that’s what this project had with Lou,” says Dorsey. Eversource has made a big commitment to partner with affordable housing projects across the state by purchasing the tax credits awarded to the projects—in Norfolk, those tax credits came from the Conn. Housing Finance Authority and the State Historic Preservation Office.

While many residents elsewhere in the state have fought against proposed affordable housing projects, Norfolk embraced the idea from the start. The fact that FNL chose to carve out 12 units from five existing buildings with historical significance close to the town center makes the pill a lot easier to swallow.

40 Greenwoods Road West, Dr. Ursoni’s former home and office, will house four units and will maintain its current appearance from the Route 44 view. The back portion of the building, that has fallen into disrepair, will be removed and replaced with a large addition housing two units. The ground level apartment will be a 1,216 sf, handicapped accessible two-bedroom unit. The first floor will have three units—a 660 sf one-bedroom, a 772 sf two-bedroom, and will house the first floor of a three-bedroom, 1,285 sf unit with stairs up to the second floor. The building has many beautiful architectural details, including a slate roof, that will be preserved during renovations.

The 46 Greenwoods Road West location, the former Menard home, will house two, two-bedroom units of roughly 1,000 sf—one upstairs and one down. This building will also maintain its original design from the Route 44 perspective, but will be receiving a much-needed exterior paint job. Large porches will be added on both levels of the back of the house, providing the tenants with some outdoor space and the necessary two points of egress. The entrance to both 40 and 46 Greenwoods Road West will be moved to Shepard Road, so the tenants can avoid the dangers of pulling off and on to Route 44.

The other six units will be housed in three separate buildings at 29, 31 and 33 Greenwoods Road East, properties that have long served as rental properties. These units, generously donated by Ralph Burr, will also be gracious in size, ranging from 800 sf to 1,352 sf.

Renovations of the five properties are expected to take seven months. The construction contract was awarded to Zlotnick Construction of Mansfield, Conn. They expect to have as many as 40 employees working on the properties this summer and fall.

Ten of the 12 units’ rents will fall within a range of 25 to 80 percent of area median income and two of the units will be market rate, with rents based on 120 percent of area median income. The new units will be managed by DeMarco Property Management Company.

As First Selectman Sue Dyer said at the groundbreaking ceremony, “This project was a long time coming, and over a road with many bumps,” but perseverance paid off and several families and individuals will benefit in the near future.

Photo by Bruce Frisch: Lou Barbagallo of Norfolk and Commissioner Evonne Klein lift the first shovels of dirt at the groundbreaking ceremony on April 20.



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