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Bond Commission OKs Funding For Housing, Transportation Projects

Bond Commission OKs Funding For Housing, Transportation Projects

Hartford Business Journal, December 19, 2019

By Joe Cooper

The State Bond Commission has approved hundreds of millions of dollars in new financing to spur apartment and affordable housing developments in Hartford and other transportation-related improvements, among other allocations.

Gov. Ned Lamont’s fourth state Bond Commission meeting was another example of the first-year Democratic governor’s pledge to slow state borrowing as part of his self-imposed “debt diet.” Lamont’s administration cancelled bond commission meetings in June, July and August.

“We haven’t borrowed and allocated as much money as we have in years past, but I think our fiscal responsibility is being recognized around the country,” Lamont told the 10-member bond commission Wednesday morning. “It sends a signal that the state is getting its fixed costs under control.”

The largest approval on Wednesday was a $135 million request from the Connecticut Department of Transportation for various resurfacing and reconstruction projects and road and bridge repairs.

In Hartford, other borrowing requests approved included $13.5 million in loans for the creation of 155 apartment units downtown. The funds were requested by the quasi-public Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA).

The majority, or $12.5 million, will be used by the Pratt Street Initiative Partnership -- including Martin J. Kenny of Lexington Partners LLC, landlord Shelbourne Global Solutions and LAZ Parking CEO Alan Lazowski -- in the first phase of their $100 million revival of the Pratt Street corridor. A $1.5 million loan will go to the owner of Colt Gateway to help finance the construction of 26 apartments in a recently vacated magnet high school building.

The Pratt Street allocation faced push back from State Rep. Christopher Davis (R-East Windsor), who questioned whether the state should be financing some of “the richest people in Greater Hartford.”

“This sends a message we are providing borrowed money to some of the richest people in our state to do these projects, when they can afford to do these projects without state assistance,” Davis said.

CRDA Executive Director Michael Freimuth responded by saying the financing was needed because many housing projects downtown lack any level of return on investment.

Davis also asked Lamont to comment on how this allocation conforms with his vision to reel in state borrowing.

The governor responded by saying he wants to ensure the trio of investors spend their money in downtown Hartford and other city centers.

“As Mike said, sometimes they need a little extra incentive to be competitive,” Lamont said. “This is key to economic development, I believe.”


Other projects approved back to top

The commission also approved $2 million, requested by CRDA, for improvements to the 15-year old plaza connecting downtown Hartford’s Connecticut Convention Center, Hartford Marriott Downtown and the Connecticut Science Center.

Another $46 million was approved for the Connecticut Department of Housing for numerous affordable housing projects in Hartford, West Hartford, New Haven and Greenwich, among other towns and cities. That includes over $2.1 million for the rehabilitation of 29 units in Hartford at the Bristol Apartments on Broad Street and the Ward-Affleck Apartments on Ward and Affleck streets.

Also, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection secured $5 million for municipal funding for open space acquisitions. The funding builds off Lamont’s goal to lock up 21 percent of land in state as open space.

“One of our great strengths as a our extraordinary quality of life,” the governor said. “Wherever you go in Connecticut, you are 10 to 15 minutes away from a park.”

Other approved requests include: 

$15 million for the state’s Small Town Economic Assistance Program. 

$4.3 million to finance the development and implementation of information technology enhancements for various state agencies, including the state Department of Labor and the Department of Development Services. 

$1 million for the replacement of a turf field at Hartford Public High School. 

$1 million for renovations and new construction at state parks and other recreation facilities.