Luxury Condos Or Low-Cost Rentals?
by Thomas MacMillan | Jan 26, 2011 7:40 am
Looking at a vacant school house, one developer sees rental apartments for under $1,000 a month. Another is set on “New York style, chic, urban” luxury condos selling for $250,000.
Those are two of four visions for the old Lovell Elementary School building at 45 Nash St. The three-story brick building was left vacant last summer after the city ended the CT Scholars program, part of Wilbur Cross High School, which had been housed there.
The city recently put out a Request For Proposals (RFP), seeking developers willing to buy the building and convert it to apartments or condos. It’s part of an effort to plug this year’s $8 to $11 million budget gap. The building is assessed at just less than $1 million, but needs a new roof.
After a walk-through by potential bidders two weeks ago, four New Haven developers put in bids in time for the Jan. 18 deadline. They are: Pike International, LLC; G. L. Capasso, Inc.; Bob Frew, architect; and A. Prete Construction Co.
Prete is working in partnership with SEEDnh, a group that has been involved in a series of efforts to rehab and preserve historic buildings in town.
On Friday, two of the four developers shared their visions for the building.
“I put in a bid that’s based on us making apartments,” said Frew (at left in photo), a city landowner and former alderman. He said the building is zoned for 11 units, but that he would seek permission to put in more. “The building is big enough to take more than 11 units.”
Frew said that he is an architect, developer, and contractor. “I rebuilt a lot of State Street,” he said. He’s also renovated other properties on Nash Street, he said.
Frew said he would work with local contractors to make rental units. “We’re looking to do this ourselves, not do it in order to sell it.”
It would cost about $1.5 million to renovate the building and take about a year, Frew said.
He said he isn’t optimistic about his chances of being the winning bidder.
“My suspicion is that the condo people will get it,” he said. “They can offer more money. ... We have to keep our prices down.” Frew said he wants to rent the apartments for less than $1,000 a month.
That plan stands in contrast to that of another bidder, a “condo guy.”
“We’re going to build luxury rentals or condos,” said Shmully Hecht (pictured), president of Pike International. “Luxury means apartments that are at least 1,000 square feet. Luxury means hardwood floors, granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances.” It also means marble bathrooms and washer and dryer hook-ups, he said. The apartments would be “chic” and “urban,” he said.
As condos, they would sell for $250 to $350 per square foot, he said. In other words, $250,000 and up. As rentals, he’d price them in “the high teens” for monthly rent.
“That location right now is one that demands a luxury product,” he said. Hecht said his tenants would be “a mix of working people in the city and Yale affiliates.”
It would take six months to complete renovation, “soup to nuts,” at a cost of about $2 to $3 million, Hecht said.
Like Frew, Hecht said he’d like to have more than 11 units in the building. He said he’d want to create 20 apartments.
Pike has been around for 11 years and has about 1,000 rental units in New Haven, Hecht said. His company has obtained and worked on reivving empty New Haven properties including an abandoned condo project in the Heights and the old St. Francis Home in Prospect Hill.
Pike Plans For 477 Prospect
Hecht’s company is also a bidder on another recent city RFP. Pike was the only bidder on 477 Prospect St., a Queen Anne-style house dating from the 1880s. The city has been looking to sell the long abandoned building for some time. There, as on Nash Street, Hecht said his company would make luxury apartments.
He said Pike just completed such a project down the street at 682 Prospect St. That old house was converted to luxury apartments that are now fully rented, he said. And Pike just received approval to do a similar project at 670 Prospect St.
“I think Pike has demonstrated that they’re capable of doing good work,” said Livable City Initiative staffer Evan Trachten, who has been working on the sale of 477 Prospect St. He said Pike recent renovations in the neighborhood “came out excellently, really, really nicely.”
Trachten acknowledged that the city had been looking for an owner-occupier for the house, and not have it broken up into apartments. Nevertheless, Trachten said he thinks the review committee will likely look favorably on Pike’s bid.
“I can only speculate that the committee will approve it,” he said.
If Hecht says his plan will work, then it probably will, Trachten predicted. “This guy from Pike is totally plugged into the housing market for New Haven.”
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