Big changes at Armstrong Court may be on the horizon.
The Town’s Housing Authority went before the Board of Selectmen on Friday to seek Municipal Improvement status for a major renovation and expansion of the western Greenwich public housing project that dates back to 1954.
First Selectman Peter Tesei said his board would wait to take a decision at their Nov. 6 meeting, in order to give the public ample time to express themselves.
Housing Authority chair, Sam Romeo said Armstrong Court is in sore need of an upgrade, for which state funding available. He and professional staff presented several drawings and renderings.
“We met with them and they’re very excited about what we are proposing,” Romeo said of the residents at Armstrong Court, though he said Friday’s presentation was just an opener to a long process.
“Hopefully we’ll get our approval,” he said of the Municipal Improvement status sought. “And then it goes on to the Planning and Zoning.”
George Yankovich, head of the board of the housing authority, explained that the state had a relatively short time frame for submitting a budget and application.
Yankovich said said the project would be broken into three phases.
PHASE I – New Units Fronting Along Hamilton Ave
In the first phase Yankovich said there would be construction of six new 3-unit buildings that front Hamilton Ave.
Four of the new buildings would be brick-front town houses by the familiar stone wall and rock outcropping, plus two buildings built down by the Armstrong Court exit, backing onto Arnold Bakeries.
The first four new units would front along Hamilton Avenue, behind the familiar stone wall.
The purpose of phase one is to create additional space while the existing buildings are gutted and existing units are re-purposed.
The purpose of Phase I is to create 18 units where people could move to from the older buildings while they are being gutted. The old units would subsequently be upgraded with new kitchens, bathrooms, new electrical and sprinklers.
“In my opinion, one of the ugliest parts of the existing building are the catwalks and the impression that they create, and we propose putting a new skin on the side of the building that has the catwalks,” Yankovich said. “As part of the process of enclosing the catwalks, we’re obligated to add additional stairwells because it’s a three story building. The plan, he said, is to spend time and money on the portions of Armstrong Court that are most visible from Hamilton Avenue.
“We’re trying to create a better face on the housing authority. Most people look at Armstrong Court as our face.” – George Yankovich
PHASE II – Gutting, Renovating and Re-Configuring Existing Buildings
Yankovich said the second phase would involve going from building to building, moving people into a completed building, gutting buildings, upgrading exteriors, adding a new roofline and then moving to the next building.
“Yes, everyone who has an apartment now will move to a different apartment. Our relocation plan is valid as long as we build the 18 units at the front first,” Yankovich said.
Yankovich said some apartments will be re-purposed. Twelve existing one-bedroom apartments will be combined with 12 two-bedroom apartments, resulting in 12 new three-bedroom units in the existing buildings.
In sum, the existing existing 144 units would become 132. Then, adding 18 new town houses would result in a net of six more additional units, for a total of 150 units.
In the end of the multi-year project, all units would be two- or three-bedroom units.
PHASE III – Four-Story Senior Housing Building with Entrance from Booth Place
Additional 51 senior units are proposed in a new 4-story building located at the back of the Armstrong Court property by the basketball and infant childcare facility, with access off Booth Place.
“Based on community input that would probably be the most controversial part of the project,” Yankovich said. “Many residents of Booth place feel their street is substandard and their concern is construction traffic and future traffic that the construction might bring.”
There was conversation about the challenge of building a driveway from Booth Place to the senior housing, both related to neighbors’ concerns and the steepness of the current roadway.
“The proposal is exceptional and I applaud the housing authority for taking the lead,” Tesei said, but he agreed that the entrance to the proposed senior housing would be a hurdle.
Mr. Tesei reminded Mr. Yankovich about environmental concerns leading into any construction undertaking.
“You’re going to be excavating in a “very sensitive area of town where we’ve had a dump” Tesei said. “The issue du jour is sedimentation and potential contaminants.”
We have taken samples at suggested locations in places where the public has suggested fill has been placed over the years, particularly the low point on the site closest to Holly Hill. “Were doing extensive sampling and should have results before going in front of IWW and P&Z.”
Mr. Marzullo said, ‘If, and that’s a big if, what if something tests positive in an area where there are children.
“I think we’re going the extra mile, Drew,” Mr. Yankovich said. “We knew the questions would come up so we’re doing the testing.”
Mr. Theis said he was pleased the project includes senior housing, as it reflects changing demographics in town, commenting that it’s ideal when seniors can remain in town.
Mr. Yankovich said the project adheres to POCD guidelines that project be located near transportation, that the town develop its own properties, that the town create housing for families and develop housing for seniors.
Mr. Tesei asked if the housing authority had considered changing the name of Armstrong Court in the process of the major construction. Mr. Yankovich said that in meetings with residents, some who have lived there for many years, that the sentiment was they were proud of the Armstrong Court name and were enthusiastic about the improvements.
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