New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)
Developers pitch modular housing complex in Quinnipiac Meadows
NEW HAVEN — Developers proposing to standardize construction of affordable housing have a plan for a partially prefabricated complex in Quinnipiac Meadows that also requests a unique taxing structure.
Vessel Technologies LLC, with headquarters in New York, is looking to build a three-story, 27-unit building at 136 Hemingway St. on 1.3 acres, only a portion of which is able to be developed because of a floodplain and wetlands, according to the developer and the city.
The property, taken by the city through foreclosure, has been vacant and off the tax rolls for some two decades.
Vessel Technologies LLC, owned by CEO Neil Rubler and Executive Vice President Josh Levy, is promot
ing an approach to affordable housing as a way to streamline design, but still build quality.
The company has proposed a similar project in Stratford that is going through planning and zoning review in that town , while another is under construction in Trenton, N.J.
The New Haven property is appraised at $147,400, according to the assessor’s website.
Livable City Initiative staff member Evan Trachten said its Property Acquisition and Disposition Committee has approved selling the Hemingway parcel for $40,000.
The developer is considering gifting the wetlands to the Land Trust, which owns adjacent property known as Hemingway Creek, according to the PAD July meeting minutes.
The sale still would have to be approved by the Livable City Initiative board of directors and the Board of Alders.
Separately, the taxing structure would go before the city’s Low Income Supportive
Housing Tax Abatement Committee.
Discussions among the alders have centered on having LISHTA follow more structured rules when it comes to agreements with affordable housing developers, as the amounts paid have varied.
Vessel presented its plans to Alder Rosa Santana, D-13, and Alder Gerald Antunes, D-12. Antunes approved the sale as part of PAD.
“I think it is a good project,” Santana said.
The alder said they suggested the developer add three-bedroom units and offer it to tenants with lower incomes than proposed, which are renters making 80 percent of the area median income.
Santana said she liked the emphasis on energyefficient components.
Vessel is proposing 24 one-bedroom units and 3 two-bedroom units and a
1-1 parking ratio. The building wold be approximately 80 feet wide, 85 feet long and 35 feet high.
The pre-fabricated unit is a manufactured product, but the developers said they would use local labor for the on-site work — walkways, parking, clearthey
ing and grading.
They also would look locally for the trades, such as plumbers, HVAC installers and electricians.
As for property management, Vessel, in its material submitted to alders, said they would train a community member who would become “our local partners and receive the surplus cash flow from the building’s operations.” The position could be part-time.
They referred to them as the “caretakers,” but didn’t elaborate when asked how the system would work.
Vessel said the building would be 100 percent steel non-combustible construction and have energy-efficient appliances, integrated smart home technology and services for hearing and visually impaired tenants.
From the beginning of the site work, estimated to occur in March 2021, if plans are approved, the project would be completed two months later in May.
The proposed tax structure could be the most unusual component. They are proposing taxes based on a percentage of revenue. This would be 6 percent for the first 10 years, 8 percent for the next 10 years , and
10 percent for the 10 after that.
If the tax arrangement were kept to 17 years, Vessel offered 5 percent of revenue for the 17-year term. In the document submitted to alders it says “revenue is defined as the money collected by the property, without deductions for expenses.”
Rubler founded Candlebrook Properties, which operates real estate development in seven states with a portfolio of $2 billion in properties, according to its submission to alders.
Levy was managing director of Candlebrook
Properties and co-founder of its subsidiary, CB-Cubed LLC, which focuses on affordable housing.
The package sent to the alders also says that Vessel has “re-thought the traditional ownership structure for housing and created the first-ever franchise system for multifamily real estate.”
Asked in an email, what that system meant, Rubler said they are still working on the concept.
As for where else they hope to build, Rubler said “we are working with partners in states up and down the eastern seaboard to achieve our mission,” but
did not give specifics.
Members of the Quinnipiac East Community Management Team are expected to weigh in on development on the proposal because of regular flooding in the area.
Opposition is percolating from the team, which has a trail vision for the area and also objects to any disturbance of the wetlands along the Hemingway Creek.
Patricia Kane, a resident of the area, said she has concerns about use of the property. “It is necessary to handle flood waters,” she said.