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Preserving Local Heritage through Smart Development

[Photo 1: Example of Hartford’s Perfect Six building style.]
Example of "Perfect Six" properties that will undergo rehabilitation in phase II.
[Photo 2: Park Terrace I, where work is already underway to convert and rehab the buildings.]
Park Terrace I, where work is already underway to convert and rehab the buildings.
[Photo 3: Picture of participants at Park Terrace II groundbreaking.]
At Mutual Housing's Park Terrace II groundbreaking: Ralph Knighton, HUD; Nelson Merced, Director, New England District Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation; Susan Forward, then Acting Secretary's Representative for New England; Catherine MacKinnon, Executive Director for Mutual Housing; Raymond A. Jordan, State Coordinator, HUD; and Geoffrey H. Siedor, President, Mutual Housing Association of Greater Hartford, Inc.

For decades, as their populations declined and blight spread like a cancer, it was easy for cities to lose sight of their heritage: saving architectural assets was seen as in conflict with efforts to stem steadily growing economic losses and meet the needs of steadily growing low-income populations. Choosing between clearance and restoration meant troubling choices for local officials trying to stanch the tide of disinvestment. But today, more and more cities understand that with federal support and the help of experienced nonprofit groups, thoughtful development can honor local heritage while strengthening urban revitalization.

In Hartford, the distinctive buildings in a historic area overlooking the city's Pope Park (named after the inventor of the bicycle, Hartford resident Albert Pope) were built in the style known as a "Perfect Six." Built at the turn of the century, these now-neglected and in some cases abandoned six-unit properties represented both a challenge and an opportunity for the city. With the assistance of HUD, the Department of the Interior, and the hands-on experience of the Mutual Housing Association of Greater Hartford, the "Perfect Six" buildings will be substantially rehabilitated and converted into spacious three-unit buildings. The end result of this smart development will be 68 affordable homes that meet the needs of modern families while preserving part of the city's heritage in a practical way.

The Mutual Housing Association, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, is itself a unique resource. It is dedicated to providing and managing permanently affordable housing - affordable in perpetuity - for the Greater Hartford region. Based on cooperative principles, its mission is much more than providing affordable housing: it also seeks to create a long lasting community of residents. Unlike other affordable housing alternatives, in mutual housing residents know that they will never have to move, provided that they meet their responsibilities as resident members of the Mutual Housing Association. Mutual Housing ensures that resident members will have a place to live for as long as they wish to stay. If a family decides to move, they have the opportunity to pass on their home to another family member. Mutual Housing Association of Greater Hartford, Inc. presently owns/manages 307 apartments and has plans to establish a homeownership initiative.

In 2001, the Mutual Housing Association of Greater Hartford, Inc. celebrated the ground breaking for Park Terrace II, the "Perfect Six" properties. The development is a new phase of rehabilitation that began with Park Terrace I. Total development costs for this project will be over $14 million, with HUD support totaling $3.9 million: $3.6 in HOME funds and $340,000 in Lead Based Paint funds. The work will include acquisition of 21 properties (17 buildings and four vacant lots); substantial renovation of 12 buildings; construction of one new building; demolition of three unsalvageable buildings; and conversion of vacant lots into parking and open space. The homes are intended for individuals or families earning 50% of median income - about $30,000 to $36,000 per year in Connecticut. Unit configurations and rents will be:

  • 4 - one bedroom units ($380)
  • 31 - two bedroom units ($525)
  • 30 - three bedroom units ($590 - $610)
  • 3 - four bedroom units ($700)

In addition to HUD, the $14 million in total development costs came from State of Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development; Connecticut Housing Finance Authority; City of Hartford; State of Connecticut Historic Commission; U.S. Dept. of the Interior; National Equity Fund; Fannie Mae; Webster Bank; Fleet Bank; Chase Manhattan Bank; Hartford Steam Boiler; Connecticut Housing Investment Fund; Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston; and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC).

The target date for completion of Park Terrace II is June 2003.

Content Archived: March 21, 2011

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