MERIDEN — The Meriden Housing Authority is seeking a consultant to evaluate and present costs to make repairs or perform a gut renovation at Community Towers.
The evaluation has been in the works for several years and discussed with tenants, but was delayed by the pandemic, said MHA Executive Director Robert Cappelletti.
A recent U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development inspection rated the 221-unit high-rise towers poorly on multiple issues. The housing authority wants to determine whether it would be more prudent to repair the buildings, where cracks in the facade were recently discovered, or gut the towers and rebuild.
Community Towers was built in 1971 and has since undergone significant repairs. The roof was recently replaced and a contractor is on board to rebuild the four elevators in both towers, Cappelletti said.
“More details will be forthcoming once a full evaluation of the development has been completed by a third-party consultant regarding the renovations of the entire development,” Cappelletti said. “This may take several months to complete once a consultant has been procured.”
Cappelletti told the MHA’s board of commissioners Monday that the MHA expected the property to receive poor marks at the HUD inspection. Despite work to improve the exterior by fixing the fencing, sidewalk cracks, the new roof and other items, the “interior has some issues,” Cappelletti said.
HUD found no safety or emergency issues but the MHA is making temporary repairs to the facade. HUD cited the authority for inoperable equipment such as door levers, and sink stoppers. Some of the infractions were repeated for all 221 units.
“We’re looking at that list,” Cappelletti said. “It didn’t have any emergency items and there were a lot of points taken off for the same things.”
Board Vice Chairman Scott Griffith asked why some of the routine items like sidewalks and fences weren’t done on a regular basis. Cappelletti replied the MHA is working on schedules and timelines for regular maintenance. Staffing shortages in the MHA had slowed down several operations, Cappelletti said.
One of the challenges facing the project is the pipework underneath the hallway floors and in some units. Some of that pipe has rotted through and the pipes are failing as pressure comes down, causing cracks.
If looking at gut rehab, the concrete floors, asbestos, sewer drain pipes will need to be removed.
Community Towers houses low-income elderly and disabled tenants, some who are homebound. All of the units are single-bedroom.
Commission members had questions about the displaced tenants should there be a gut-rehab. Cappelletti said it would be one tower at a time. There are currently 11 vacancies at Community Towers and residents will be given temporary vouchers and find temporary housing with MHA staff assistance. After completion, tenants will be invited to move back into a new unit.
“We started working on it prior to COVID,” Cappelletti said. “We did talk to tenants a couple of times. We go back now and start interviewing. Most of them are informed of what we’re planning. Generally people are excited about getting a new unit, some of them have impacted ability to move. We’ll use our relocation team.”
The MHA helped relocate displaced tenants from the Mills Memorial Apartments, but the Community Towers relocation couple potentially impact 120 couples or singles at a time.
HUD wants to see two cost estimates for either a repair or gut renovation before issuing a recommendation for the project. HUD funding, loans and tax credits will also be used to provide financing. The MHA is looking for a consultant who has prior experience with HUD. The entire process could take several years.