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Wallingford plans to revamp proposal for old train station after not receiving grant

WALLINGFORD — The town will begin working on a new application for a state Communities Challenge Grant after getting word that it was not successful in the last funding round.

"We were notified about a week or so ago" that the town would not be receiving the $1.7 million it applied for to go towards renovations at the former train station, Wallingford Mayor William Dickinson Jr. said Tuesday.

 "They had handed out a portion of the money and they indicated we can apply again so we are intending to do that," he said.

The town was hoping to get the grant, which the town would match, to do work at the train station to transform it into commercial space. That work includes exterior roof repairs, exterior brick work, windows, and the reconfiguration of the interior of the building for a better floor layout, along with improvements to the mechanical and electrical systems. 

The area around the building, between Quinnipiac Street and Hall Avenue and bordered by Johanna Manfreda Fishbein Park and the railroad tracks, is an Incentive Housing Zone. The Planning and Zoning Commission recently approved increasing the density allowed in parts of the area to 50 units per acre to encourage more housing development there, and the renovation of the train station is seen as an important part of that plan. 

The state Department of Economic and Community Development created the Communities Challenge Grant Program to provide funding to municipalities "to improve livability, vibrancy, convenience and equity of communities throughout the state," according to its website. It also will create about 3,000 jobs over the life of the grant program, according to the website.

The municipalities must match the grant to be eligible. Eligible projects include transit development, downtown development, infrastructure and public space improvements and affordable housing development.

In the description of the program, the DECD encourages applications that include partnerships between the municipality and developers. 

"DECD encourages public-private partnerships," the website states.  "Eligible entities are welcome to partner with one or more of the following types of organizations: private developers, business organizations, other institutions or each other to submit an application."

Dickinson said he'll be reaching out to developers to get their input and ideas for renovation of the train station.

"We need to get more details to flesh out our proposal,” he said. “We will be looking to talk to some developers and develop a more defined project, especially with what the role of the developer would be.

“Other funding options that we are aware of deal with historic building type grants, but they require you to not change the use," Dickinson said. "You have to commit to a given use for 20 years. We're actually proposing a change of use for the railroad station."

Other grant opportunities are generally much smaller in scale, he said. "We're applying for $1.7 million. That's a much larger amount of money than any of the other grants that I'm aware of."

The next round of Community Challenge Grants will be given out in the spring, and the town intends to apply in that cycle as well, Dickinson said.


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