CANTON – A local non-profit and a New York based development company are hoping to bring an integrated apartment project to Commerce Drive.
The Arc of the Farmington Valley, commonly known Favarh, a Canton based organization that supports people with intellectual, physical and developmental disabilities and Regan Development Corporation have approach town officials with the idea of an apartment complex at 300 and 350 Commerce, near the 55-plus Boulder Ridge complex. At this point, there is no formal application for the project.
The initial concept for the building is an integrated environment with approximately 36 units, nine of which would be set aside and specially designed for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, with the rest of the units open to general population – at a reasonable price point. The building would include common areas and an on-site superintendent.
“It would provide additional affordable housing for young people, perhaps older people looking to downside – all in the setting of an integrated space for people with intellectual disabilities,” said Stephen Morris, executive director of Favarh
“The desire is to help people locally be able to stay local,” said Ken Regan, vice president of Regan Development. “This is a technique we’ve put together to try and build community but at the same time provide rentals, of good quality, that people can afford.”
Regan said the project is in its infancy but said the one-bedroom units could fall in the 700 to 750 square-foot range and two bedrooms approximately 900 to 1,050 square feet.
Rents for the Simsbury project fall between $986 and $1,415 and while Regan said it’s too early for any hard numbers, Canton prices could be lower.
In 2011, Regan Development debuted Kershaw Commons in Freehold Township, N.J., the first East Coast project designed specifically for those with Multiple Sclerosis.
The company has launched several projects for those with special needs and in September of 2015 opened Ojakian Commons in Simsbury, a 48-unit complex also designed for MS patients. At the request of Simsbury officials, the facility set aside 7 apartments for those with other disabilities, a move that led to the relationship with Favarh, Morris said. The facility has specially designed features for those with disabilities, such as automated doors, wide doors, hard-surface flooring, accessably placed light switches and more. There are also several common areas for social gatherings and additional amenities.
“It’s just a great social environment,” Morris said of the Simsbury facility. “I said ‘gosh we really need to do something like this but for people with intellectual abilities.’ We started talking to the developer about possibly doing something in Canton.”
The Canton facility would be smaller in size and scope, said Regan, who added that while the project is in its infancy, the idea is to create look similar to Boulder Ridge.
But community support is crucial, Regan said.
“We’re only going to do something if it’s appropriate for the community and something we get support for,” Regan said.
Neil Pade, the town’s director of Planning and Community Development, said the town is working to schedule a special meeting with members of the Planning and Zoning Commission and Economic Development Agency to tour the Ojakian Commons in Simsbury. (That meeting has now been scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 17). While the concept has been discussed briefly in meetings, and the project would look a little different, officials said the tour would allow the commission to really visualize the basic concept.
The housing proposal is interesting, Pade said, and in many ways fits in with the more residential character the area has developed. On the other hand, town commissions will have to explore the idea of modifying the master plan for the industrial park, set aside circa 2000 for limited industrial use, he said.
“It raises the question that will come before the commission eventually – is it time for that master plan to be revisited,” Pade said.
For Morris, the plan would fit nicely into Favarh’s footprint. Its headquarters are at 225 Commerce, the organization runs some of its program at 15 Canton Springs Road and is preparing to soon file a formal application its Life Education Center project planned for 100 Commerce Drive.
While some have complained that Favarh as a non-profit is not a tax paying entity, Morris has consistently said the organization contributes much to the local job market, social fabric and economy. He also feels that many in town appreciate Favarh.
Morris is also excited for the developing “campus feel” for Favarh. (The apartment project would be a tax paying entity).
“We’re creating this little bit of a campus feel to our services in town, which we’re excited about,” he said. “It’s coming together in a nice, professional, futuristic way. I think people in Canton like Favarh, I think we’re good for the town and this will just add to that.”
Additionally the trend toward integration is a growing one, getting away from institutions or hospital settings.
“Really our desire is to take people who have special needs or developmental disabilities and give them the opportunity to live in the community like everyone else,” Regan said.
“This is probably the future of supporting people with intellectual disabilities,” Morris said. “It’s going to involve fewer group homes and more creative solutions like this one.”
While the project would be different in many ways, embedded below is NBC Connecticut’s story on the Ojakian Commons in Simsbury to provide a frame of reference. A commercial will air before you can view the video.