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Updated: June 2, 2020 Town Profile: Farmington

New Horizons Inc. eyes 22-unit apartment complex in Unionville

Rendering | Contributed A rendering of New Horizons Village in Farmington with a planned new 22-unit residential apartment complex.

When Farmington’s New Horizons Village opened in the 1980s, Connecticut’s housing infrastructure for physically disabled adults was so bereft of options, many lived in hospital wards in New Haven or Hartford.

In that context, New Horizons Inc. was a god-send when it opened its 26-acre campus in the Unionville section of Farmington that included 68 housing units built to be accessible for 101 disabled tenants, about two-thirds of whom shared a dwelling.

Carol Fitzgerald, CEO, New Horizons Inc.

“To just share an apartment with one other individual was visionary,” New Horizons Inc. CEO Carol Fitzgerald said. “When you fast-forward 30-plus years, … it’s very difficult to match adults who want to live independently to live with someone they do not know.”

Fitzgerald said she wants to invert the current single-to-double ratio so two-thirds of New Horizon clients have private units. That’s why the approximately $20-million-a-year nonprofit with 225 employees — including about 50 at the New Horizons Village complex on Bliss Memorial Road — plans to build a new 22-unit residential complex on its campus, she said.

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

However, before that happens New Horizons faces the challenge of fundraising for the estimated $5-million project during a pandemic and severe economic downturn.

Farmington’s planning and zoning board this month will vote on whether to extend the approval it gave the project when it was first proposed two years ago. New Horizons had planned to start construction earlier, but unsuccessful efforts to obtain state funding delayed its progress.

The pandemic could cause further delay, since so many state dollars are unexpectedly going toward necessary COVID-related expenses, Fitzgerald said.

“[COVID-19] has had to be dealt with, and has taken up resources that could normally be used on this kind of project,” Fitzgerald said. “The whole thing has affected all of our lives.”

A need for privacy

Rendering | Contributed
A rendering of New Horizons’ planned new apartments for physically disabled residents.

New Horizons Village operates much like any apartment building, as opposed to a nursing home, Fitzgerald said. Units have features like wheelchair-accessible sinks, showers and light switches. Amenities like transportation are offered, but tenants pay their own bills, do their own shopping and live independent lives. But almost everyone who moves in has to start off in a shared unit because the wait list for a single apartment is between 15 and 20 years.

That delay is unacceptable today, said Fitzgerald, who also stressed that the pandemic has demonstrated the need for most New Horizons residents to have their own apartment, where they’re better able to control the risk of coming in contact with coronavirus.

“I think now more than ever, with what we have all experienced with COVID-19, we realize how difficult it is to have strangers live together,” Fitzgerald said. “I think it just speaks to the fact that we really need these single units.”

But while it’s unclear when New Horizons will have the funds necessary to build the project, Fitzgerald said she’s confident state and local officials will assist the nonprofit as much as possible.

“It’s a pleasure to be in Farmington,” Fitzgerald said. “They just embrace the diversity that we have to offer.”

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