Meriden developer seeks change to allow more downtown apartments

MERIDEN — The city’s zoning appeal board agreed Tuesday to continue a public hearing on a request by 163 Pratt LLC for a special exception to increase the number of apartments allowed in the transit-focused neighborhood and to allow lower ceilings.

The developer, 163 Pratt LLC, requested the hold to allow all five board members to see and hear the presentation. Only four board members attended Tuesday’s meeting.

“It’s a powerful presentation,” said attorney Dennis Ceneviva, representing the developer. “I suspect you don’t want to hear that twice.”

The proposal calls for 45 market-priced apartments across four lots that were merged into two lots earlier this year. It also includes the razing of the old Curtis building at 171 Pratt St. and the maintenance of a veneer business out back at 169 Pratt St. intact. Access to the apartment parking lot would be on Twiss Street.

Current regulations allow 50 affordable and low-income units per acre, but only 22 units at market price. The proponent “is asking to increase the density allowed for units at market price from 22 units to 45 units.

Owner Frank Ciarcia could not be reached for comment. State records list Ciarcia as a director of 163 Pratt LLC. His son, Nick Ciarcia represented the group at Tuesday’s ZBA meeting.

Nick Ciarcia said discussions about the project began two years ago with city officials and councilors. Instead of using public funds, the proposed four-storey apartment building relies on private investment.

“We are very excited about this project,” Ciarcia said. “It’s currently a vacant dilapidated structure and knowing what’s going on in the city, we spoke with a number of people and they were very optimistic. We think the market is ready to support it. We really wanted a nice building.

The first floor is an “amenity space” with an office, gym, patio, and other spaces for residents. The upper floors will have townhouses.

The partnership is also asking the city to approve its request to lower the height of the ceilings on the first floor from 12 feet to nine feet.

“Current zoning requires 12-foot ceilings, which is inconsistent with normal building practice and absurd when applied for non-commercial purposes,” planning staff noted in comments to members. of the ZBA.

The partnership hasn’t reported any difficulties, but Ceneviva recently told members of the city council’s economic development, housing and zoning committee that the project will add to the city’s market-priced housing stock and eliminate a vacant building downtown. The apartment building will occupy approximately 43,000 square feet.

In 2007, owners received a special exception to convert an existing building used for commercial purposes to light manufacturing and allow mixed uses in a C-1 zone. He received approval earlier this year to merge the plots into two.

CRC Chrome, owned by the Ciarcia family, at 169 Pratt St., at the rear of the property, will remain in place.

Plans call for nine one-bedroom units on the first floor, 18 two-bedroom units on the second floor and 18 two-bedroom units on the third floor.

Per city code, no special exceptions will be granted unless the following requirements are met: the use will not create a traffic or fire hazard, block or impede the traffic pattern city ​​road or depreciate the value of neighborhood property.

No waiver will be granted on any allegation of hardship resulting from an act of the applicant.

The council must also conclude that if the owner were to comply with the laws in force, he could not make any reasonable use of this property and that the difficulties or privations are peculiar to the property in question, unlike those of other properties in the same district. , and that the difficulties were not the result of the plaintiff’s action, or that the difficulties are simply financial or pecuniary.

The project received favorable reviews from city officials during a preliminary presentation to the Economic Development, Housing and Zoning Committee.

“Yes, I am in favor of housing at market rates in what we have determined in our conservation and development plan,” said councilor Michael Rohde, president of the EDHZ. “We have very old housing in Meriden, and we need more prices and amenities. It is the housing stock that we badly need and a number of (new projects) are moving in this direction.

Rohde highlighted a proposed luxury rental project at 289 Pratt St., Pennrose’s proposal on Meriden Green, 44 units on Westfield Avenue and the Colony project in five buildings on Colony Street.

“It’s music to my ears,” Rohde said. “We have a lot of action. They have determined that there is a need. It bodes well for Meriden to support these projects.

Journalist Mary Ellen Godin can be reached at [email protected]

David H. Henry