Groundbreaking coming soon for supportive housing project in Windham

The Windham House on Main Street in Willimantic. File photo by Roxanne Pandolfi

The Windham House on Main Street in Willimantic. Mayor Ernie Eldridge said tenants of the Windham House, some of whom are now scattered throughout the area, will be eligible to live in the new building. File photo by Roxanne Pandolfi

After three years Cedarwoods, a controversial supportive housing project that received some of its land use approvals in 2007,  is eyeing a groundbreaking next month.

Windham Town Manager Neal Beets said town officials met with the project team for the housing proposal and town hall staffers are set to sign off on a site plan and blueprints this month, with site clearing starting in September.

“There’s going to be a lot of activity,” Beets said, such as clearing trees from the site in preparation for construction.

Beets said he thinks the proposal is a good project that will provide its residents with housing and social services.

Cedarwoods is being developed by Common Ground, the New York-based, nonprofit group. It is planned as a 56-unit rental complex located on 19 acres at 87 Roanoak Ave.

Sharon Gowen, director of Connecticut community partnerships for Common Ground, said the group is hoping for a groundbreaking before the first frost.

She said Common Ground builds “very high quality supportive housing.”

Gowen said the project also brings sustainable housing to eastern Connecticut, where there’s currently a shortage.

“I think it’s a good project – I really do,” said Windham Mayor Ernest Eldridge, who foresees the project as providing essential services.

He said the complex will be safe and a building that residents can take pride in.

Eldridge said tenants of the Windham House, some of whom are now scattered throughout the area will be eligible to live in the new building.

Eldridge envisions the facility as helping those who are at risk of homelessness or who are homeless, to give them the support they need to move forward and be productive citizens.

Project scaled back

Originally, the proposal was for 74 units, but Common Ground staff appeared before the town’s zoning commission in October 2009 with a scaled-back plan.

The units will be available to individuals at risk for homelessness and persons with low to moderate incomes.

The size of the units was also scaled back from the original 760 square feet to 606 square feet and parking was reduced from about 80 parking spaces to 62.

Common Ground received site plan approval from the zoning commission in December 2007 after a lengthy approval process that included many well-attended public hearings.

The December 2007 zoning board approval was 5-1, with the lone dissenting voice coming from former Windham First Selectman Jean de Smet, who was seated as an ex-officio member with voting rights.

Six months prior, in June 2007, Common ground received approval from the zoning commission for a zone change and associated regulations.

The vote was to change the area from single-family use to a planned development district for a multi-family project.

Frog Prince where art thou?

Years ago, the construction of Cedarwoods was seen as a key step for a downtown redevelopment project by Frog Prince LLC, appointed by the town in 2006 as preferred developer.

The idea was that after moving Windham House residents to Cedarwoods, downtown development could move forward because it would free up that space – either for a different use or for demolition.

However, development stalled – for many reasons – and recently the Windham House was sold to local businessman Timothy DeVivo.

Residents have been relocated, some put in local hotels.

According to Common Ground’s Web site, Cedarwoods will have common areas that will include an exercise room, arts and crafts room, back patio and community gardens.

On-site parking will be available for residents and visitors, and a central main entrance with 24-hour security will ensure a safe environment, the Web site said.

Common Ground’s Web site also stated Cedarwoods will be the first LEED-certified affordable housing development in eastern Connecticut. LEED is a designation indicating a construction’s design is environmentally sound and efficient.

The project is expected to receive $560,000 in federal tax credits for construction of affordable housing that were approved by the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority in August 2009, which in charge of administering the funds

For more information, visit

Posted Aug. 14, 2010

Related links:

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)


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