STONINGTON — The 58 new apartments planned for the dilapidated second half of the historic Threadmill complex will be sold as condos after renting the units for five years, according to its developer.
“There’s requirements to hold the property under current ownership for five years in order to be eligible for historic tax credits, so in year six, you can [convert],” said Jonathan Cozzens, of Lee Associates in Boston, following a presentation to the town’s Architectural Design Review Board on Monday. “Unfortunately, because the project is so difficult financially, we’d basically be breaking even – that would be putting it nicely – for the first five years until we sell them as condos.”
Once “The Mill at the Marina” building, located on a 5.24-acre site at 21 Pawcatuck Ave., is 80 percent occupied as rentals, the five-year countdown will begin.
Cozzens said the project is not an 8-30g affordable housing development, unlike the adjacent 58-unit Threadmill Apartments, which was developed in 2016 by Pawcatuck Riverview LLC.
The buildings were constructed around 1899 and housed the William Clark Company Threadmill.
The transition from apartments to condos would probably take over a year, “but when the last one is done, it becomes a condo,” Cozzens said of the project.
“I’d prefer to sell them as condos in year one. But unfortunately, because of the building costs, it costs a lot more per year than they’re worth even when they’re done. So that’s the reason why we have to rely on the tax credit subsidies essentially,” he said.
The town, in collaboration with the developer, has received a $200,000 brownfield assessment grant from the state Department of Economic and Community Development. The cleanup is likely to cost millions of dollars, Cozzens said.
“We have a lot of cleanup to do. We know that there’s contamination of the site. That’s just part of the package. It’s just part of the job,” he said, adding he expects the groundbreaking to begin within a year.
The project will include restoration of the 126,071-square-foot building, and the creation of a 40-space parking garage in the basement, 147 outdoor parking spaces, a rooftop garden with solar panels, outdoor kitchen and dining areas, and recreation areas.
At the board presentation, architect John Seger, of Salem, Mass., said the project entails replacing all of the windows and doors, repointing all of the masonry and bricks, and redoing the roof system. He said two atria will be constructed in the middle of the building to bring light to the residential units and common areas.
Mark Kepple, attorney for Lee Associates, told the board the developer will propose a “Industrial Heritage Reuse District” zoning amendment that would allow the restoration of the building and the “potential future development” of a second building on the site, which is in the marine commercial district.
Kepple said the second building was included in the proposed amendment so the developer would not need to return to the Planning and Zoning Commission for approval.
“The new building would have to replicate the architectural style of the Threadmill. We don’t know if P&Z will approve this or not.” Kepple said.
Cuzzons said the idea was a placeholder for “five years out, after this one is finished and occupied.”
Kepple said the potential second building mirrors the concept of the first Threadmill building.
“We’re marrying this application to Threadmill I, and they got permission for a new building,” he said.
The commission questioned the management of the “back lawn” area along Pawcatuck Avenue where the outdoor amenities would be located.
Seger said the area would be for exclusive use of “Threadmill II” occupants.
Board Chair Michael McKinley asked how the apartment complex would control public access to the park-like area.
“It’s a wonderful idea. The more open space, whether it’s public or not, the better, and the more trees the better. … There’s kind of a conflict there between developing this for residents and the worst case of having certain taken over by whomever,” McKinley said. “But in the middle ground is where it actually contributes back to the fabric of the open space and the community.”
McKinley suggested an “edge with park benches with lighting and then some form of security.”
The board also wondered whether a sidewalk would be installed along 21 Pawcatuck Ave. to connect with the one that follows the edge of Clark Lane and ends at the property edge.
McKinley gave Kepple and his group a list of action items for the next meeting, including bringing the project landscape architect to answer questions, full-size drawing sets showing the roof plan with atria and mechanical enclosures, more detail about the open space area and potential sidewalk, and other items.
The Architectural Design Review Board will take a second look at the project during its next meeting on Sept. 11.