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October 29, 2020

Construction begins on controversial $10.7M Hartford affordable housing project

This Asylum Avenue property is part of a $10.7 million apartment redevelopment in Hartford.

A $10.7 million affordable housing development in Hartford’s Asylum Hill neighborhood, which drew the ire of local residents two years ago when it first aired, recently began construction after the developer was able to piece together financing for the project.

When completed, Clover Gardens will add 32 new units of mixed-income housing to four separate historic properties -- at 852, 846 and 834 Asylum Ave. and 1 Huntington St. -- that have stood vacant for years, said Sharon L. Castelli, CEO of the Chrysalis Center Inc., whose nonprofit real estate arm is developing the project.

Construction began early this month after Chrysalis raised funding from myriad sources, including the Department of Housing, Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, State Historic Preservation Alliance, among others, Castelli said. 

Clover Gardens will offer studio and one-to-three bedroom rental units at different price points, ranging from about $999 to $1,900, for people earning different incomes. Eight units will house clients from Hartford nonprofit HARC, which provides services for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Those residents will have jobs and can earn up to $30,000 a year. Fourteen units have been set aside for those earning incomes up to $61,500; 10 units are for those earning between $65,000 and $85,000.

Chrysalis is redeveloping the properties at 852, 846 and 834 Asylum Ave., shown above.

Chrysalis’ real estate arm -- the Chrysalis Center Real Estate Corp. -- is constructing the project.   Chrysalis bought the Asylum Avenue properties in 2017 for $850,000 from the Jumoke Academy. 

When Chrysalis first aired its plans for the development, the response was negative from nearby residents who argued the area already had an abundance of low-income housing. The city of Hartford does have one of the highest rates of affordable housing in the state, which has touched off a debate lately about the fairness of Connecticut’s housing policies. 

Despite the opposition, Castelli said her organization was able to get financing in place. She said she understood the concerns of neighbors, which is why the projected incorporated housing units for households earning higher salaries up to $85,000.

Overall, she said the project is a positive for the community because it’s going to take vacant and dilapidated historic buildings -- at least one of which was used as a crack house and for prostitution -- and make them functional again.

“I'm just really pleased that we were able to piece the funding together to improve the neighborhood,” Castelli said in an interview. 

Chrysalis Center CEO Sharon L. Castelli

Because the properties are historic, construction must preserve the original character of the buildings.
The trim, doors, staircases, casings and other items will be removed from each building, preserved and then reinstalled once the interior renovations are complete, she said.

“This property will be an anchor for the Asylum Hill neighborhood,” she said. “It’s going to be a showpiece to the community.”

The properties will also stay on the city’s tax rolls, an important point, Castelli noted, since more than 50% of property in the city remains tax exempt.

Konover has been hired as the property manager.

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