Former Mohegan Sun CEO to Build First Multifamily Housing Complex in Haddam

A 56-unit, market-rate apartment complex will become the first multifamily housing project in Haddam next year, after receiving approval from the town planning and zoning commission last Thursday.

The Haddam Planning and Zoning Committee unanimously approved a site plan for a 56 unit apartment complex at 1564 Saybrook Road and 3 Brookes Court, near Bridge Street. The developing company, Elm Tree Partners, is owned by former Mohegan Sun CEO Jeff Hartmann.

The project includes three apartment buildings and one community clubhouse. Each will be served by its own septic system to satisfy health code regulations, according to Civil engineer Graham Curtis, who presented the engineering plans on Hartmann’s behalf.

Connecticut Water extended the water main up to the site to serve drinking water to the project. Because there is no gas service in the area, the buildings will be heated by electric pumps, Curtis said.

Hartmann said he looked at locations in New Haven and Florida before settling on the location next to The Saybrook, an assisted-living development in Haddam.

“I’m building this for my family,” Hartmann said. “I’m a long-term holder of this. I’m not someone from a New York hedge fund who is investing. It’s my company, it’s my money, and I’m committed to this.” Hartmann’s office is located in nearby Old Saybrook.

He said he expects the 36 one-bedroom units to lease at about $1,600 and the 20 two-bedroom units to lease at about $1,900, but that the cost of building materials when the project is built and the market could affect those numbers.

An outline showing the front parcel of the project (Credit: Google Map Data, 2021)

Hartmann said that his company expects about three school-age children will be living in the apartment complex and attending Region 17 schools based on a 2018 Rutgers University study evaluating the number of school-age children in rental housing in New Jersey.

Haddam Planner Bill Warner said that, when it is built, the apartment complex will be the second-highest property tax contributor in Haddam, after Eversource. He estimated that the assessed value of the development would amount to about $10-12 million.

The project was made possible after the State of Connecticut paid to extend a water main from Chester to Tylerville, which had long been plagued with contaminated groundwater that forced people in the area to rely on bottled or filtered water. The town also recently received a federal grant to build sidewalks along Bridge Road to the East Haddam Swing Bridge.

The state is also adding a pedestrian walkway to the bridge and will construct a roundabout at the intersection of Bridge and Saybrook roads that will extend sidewalks to the apartment complex, allowing residents to walk as far as East Haddam, Warner said.

Ann Faust, a Haddam resident and executive director of the Coalition on Housing and Homelessness in Middletown, said she raised her children in Haddam, and when they and their friends tried to move back to Haddam, they couldn’t find a place to live and moved on to other towns. She said a lot of her “mom friends” who are now empty-nesters are selling their houses and moving elsewhere, as well.

According to Faust, what’s driving those issues is the town’s decision so far to allow only single family houses on large lots.

“You know, I thought a lot about our town – I’ve lived here 33 years – and what we aspire to be. And you know most of our residents – not all, but most of our residents want a welcoming town, a more diverse town. It may be that this project will help bring a little more diversity to our town,” Faust said to applause from the room.

Warner said Camion and Associates completed a housing market study in 2018 that showed the town could support as many as 189 multifamily housing units.

Selectwoman Kate Anderson said she supported the project on behalf of the town Economic Development Committee. She said that the complex will boost pedestrian traffic and encourage more pedestrian-focused projects like the added sidewalks in Tylerville.

“I grew up in this town, and my friends, we want to live here,” Anderson said. “And there’s just not spaces for a lot of people my age. As the target demographic, I’ve shown the drawings to my friends, and it’s like, ‘Alright, when can we move in?’”

Site location on Saybrook Road in Haddam (Credit: Google Map Data, 2021)

First Selectman Bob McGarry also voiced support for the development, and echoed the concerns about a lack of housing for both young people and empty nesters in Haddam.

“This is a wonderful community to live in for probably like the middle two-thirds of your adult life,” McGarry said. “When you’re fresh out of school, just moving into the workplace, you don’t have a lot of housing options here other than living with your parents. And once your kids move out and you’re an empty nester, and you don’t need to maintain the three or four bedroom house you’ve got, again, you don’t have a lot of options in town. I’d like to make housing options available for those ranges.”

Hartmann said he would like to start construction in September and start pre-leasing around next May. He said he has an option to add another 24 units some time in the future, and he hopes to be back before the commission to ask for approval to do that.

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