Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

Updated: February 10, 2020 Town Profile: Wethersfield

After quarter-century drought, new apartments bloom in Wethersfield

HBJ Photo | Greg Bordonaro The Borden apartments on Silas Deane Highway in Wethersfield will have 150 market-rate rental units once complete this spring.
Capital City migration 
More Information

Prior to 2018, the town of Wethersfield went more than a quarter-century without any new apartment construction.

That’s changed significantly in recent years with the addition of nearly 250 market-rate apartments, driven largely by Millennial’s and empty nesters’ desires to rent rather than own a home.

But Wethersfield isn’t experiencing an apartment boom. In fact, it doesn’t necessarily want one.

Since 2008, town officials have been encouraging mixed-use development with a residential component, but they don’t have a concerted plan to add more rental units, and the projects that have come online have been driven by developers not town planners.

That’s in contrast to the city of Hartford, which has been eagerly pushing new market-rate apartment development with hopes of bringing more people to its central business district. Wethersfield officials say they welcome the new apartments but also want to see more commercial development.

“We really don’t have much developable land left,” said Peter Gillespie, Wethersfield’s director of planning and economic development. “We need to be careful about some of the land-use decisions we make because we really don’t have significant opportunities like other communities.”

“We are not opposed to [more apartments] if the market is there for it and it’s the right site, but we also like to see other commercial activity on some sites,” he added.

Photo | Contributed
Peter Gillespie (left), Wethersfield’s director of planning and economic development, with Town Manager Gary Evans.

With a 40.74 mill rate, Wethersfield does have one of the highest property tax rates in Greater Hartford, underscoring the need for more commercial development to boost its grand list. Additional housing can also bring higher municipal costs, especially if new children enter the community.

But it’s been market demand — particularly among people without school-age kids — that has spurred new apartment construction.

Developer Greg Patchen, whose Ridge Road Development Group LLC recently converted a former priest-retirement community at 275 Ridge Road into 64 luxury apartments, said his project was fully leased within six months, mostly by young professionals and older adults tired of homeownership.

“It’s people who don’t want to do maintenance,” Patchen said.

Ridge275, as the apartment community is called, has 25 one-bedroom and 39 two-bedroom units with monthly rents ranging from $1,450 to about $1,950, Patchen said.

Amenities include a pool house, gym, dog-wash station, community room and lounges. The basement also has storage units tenants can rent.

Patchen, whose development group also has projects in West Hartford and other nearby towns, said he doesn’t have plans for more apartments in Wethersfield but “he’s always looking for other opportunities.”

He’s also curious to see how the town’s newest luxury apartment development — The Borden — leases.

That $32-million project, when fully completed later this year, will include 150 market-rate apartments and 18,000 square feet of commercial space spread across two buildings, including a newly constructed residential facility at 1178 Silas Deane Highway.

The new building will contain 111 apartments that are expected to debut this spring. The other property, at 1160 Silas Deane Highway, is a retrofit of an older office building that now includes 39 apartments on floors two through four.

Project developer Martin Kenny, who was a Wethersfield resident for about 30 years, said 24 of those units are currently occupied and he expects the building, which has a dentist and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties as ground-floor tenants, to be fully leased by the end of March.

“We opened in October at the end of the leasing season so we are pretty happy with where we are at right now,” Kenny said.

[Read more: HBJ examines developments in CT towns, cities]

He estimates it will take a full year to lease up the project’s second phase.

Together, the two buildings will have 40 studio, 71 one-bedroom, 35 two-bedroom and four three-bedroom apartments. Rents range from about $1,400 for a studio to $3,000 for a three-bedroom apartment.

Kenny, who is also an active downtown Hartford apartment developer, said he is currently looking for a casual full-service restaurant and other retail tenants to fill up the approximately 11,000 square feet of commercial space at 1178 Silas Deane Highway.

He also said the biggest differentiator for his apartments, besides being near many retail and restaurant options, are the amenities, which include a rooftop lounge, outdoor patio area with firepits, community room, fitness center, pet spa, dog park, package-concierge station, and interactive multi-sport simulation room that will allow patrons to play golf, soccer, hockey and football.

Large apartments also have fireplaces and balconies, he said.

“Amenities in apartment spaces are like a nuclear arms race,” Kenny said. “Everybody’s got to have the next best thing. Renters by choice are willing to pay higher rents because of the conveniences this kind of lifestyle offers.”

The Borden received a tax abatement from the town and the state, under the Malloy administration, provided a $5-million subsidy for the project, Kenny said.

Without that funding the development wouldn’t have happened, he said.

A third apartment project in town converted the former Connecticut Children’s Medical Center school at 170 Ridge Road into 32 rental units, Gillespie said.

Affordable units?

One thing Wethersfield hasn’t seen is new affordable-housing units, which has become a hot-button issue across Connecticut lately as some suburban towns’ restrictive housing policies have come under the spotlight.

Gillespie said Wethersfield hasn’t been approached by any affordable-housing developers over the last two decades “so we have not had that debate here recently.”

He did say the town’s housing authority recently invested in repairs and upgrades to several existing affordable-housing properties.

“We have over 2,000 housing units in town at a price point that could be considered naturally occurring affordable housing,” said Gillespie. “Our plan of conservation and development supports the policy of encouraging a diverse housing stock and helping to address identified local needs for affordable housing.”

Sign up for Enews


Order a PDF