The landmark Courtland Arms building in downtown New Britain is reopening this winter after more than two decades of abandonment followed by an $8 million renovation.
The nonprofit Chrysalis Center spent nearly a year and a half restoring the historic building, which will be home to two dozen individuals, couples and sets of roommates.
Four apartments will be set aside for low-income veterans who need housing, part of the population that Hartford-based social service organization tries to help.
Several of the 24 apartments have already been leased, and Chrysalis’s rental agent will be showing units this month. City leaders toured the building last week; because of the pandemic, Chrysalis is offering the public individual tours but isn’t conducting any opening ceremony.
“I had been in that building as a kid and this was a great buildout,” said Gerry Amodio, executive director of the Downtown District. “Chrysalis is wonderful landlord and I’m hoping that they will do more in town.”
The Courtland Arms stood derelict for about 25 years, targeted by vandals and decaying badly. Over the years, several developers and social service agencies proposed restoration ideas, but never lined up financing. Neighbors who watched that deterioration were especially excited when Chrysalis was able to save it.
“This is just a wonderful project and it’s making a world of difference in downtown,” said Justine Moriarty, owner of the nearby Miller, Moriarty & Company accounting office. “It used to be broken windows, pigeons, raccoons, the whole nine yards.
“This was an unimaginable rehabilitation of this building, and Chrysalis kept so many of the historic parts,” said Moriarty, who toured the building Monday. “It’s warm and inviting. I’ve been here 30 years, and this changes the whole neighborhood.”
The Chrysalis Center Real Estate Corp., the development arm of the social service organization, specializes in renovations of historic buildings to serve as housing for people trying to rebuild their lives. Usually at least some of the tenants are recently released inmates, formerly homeless people or clients receiving mental health treatment.
The Courtland Arms project will have a varied occupancy. In addition to the four units for homeless veterans, there will be seven with rents targeted to households earning $36,000 to 46,000, 10 for incomes in the $43,000 to $55,000 range, and three for incomes between $58,000 and $74,000.
Chrysalis expects some Central Connecticut State University students as well as CTfastrak commuters will become tenants.
Federal tax credit legislation that allows income averaging for all of the tenant base permits Chrysalis to make this kind of project feasible, said Sharon Castelli, chief executive officer.
“We can put some high rents with high-income earners in so we can pay for operations while doing the mission-based set-aside, which in our case are homeless veterans,” she said.
Chrysalis and its contractor, Torrington-based PAC Group LLC, worked with architect Paul Bailey to not only salvage the building, but restore the ornate 1920s details. The hardwood floors, brass mailboxes and art deco flourishes were refreshed, and an art deco chandelier was installed in the lobby.
“When you have that, it says to anybody coming in — a homeless veteran or someone making $76,000 a year — that a lot of attention was paid to the details, that you want to live here,” Castelli said.
Chrysalis did the project with a mix of state historic preservation tax credits, state and federal housing monies as well as financing arranged through the National Development Council.
“Twenty years down the road, we still wants this to be beautiful. We want to be a good neighbor. And there’s a price to pay for that,” she said. “We’re different because we’ve built a culture that says people have a right to affordable housing, but affordable housing doesn’t have to look like extremely low-income housing.”
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