Corbin Heights Ground Breaking Ceremony featured in The Herald

The following article appeared in the July 20 publication of The Herald: 

Building a community: Ground broken on $80M Pinnacle Heights project

Thursday, July 19, 2012 9:11 PM EDT


NEW BRITAIN — Simon Konover’s President Jim Wakim set the theme for Thursday’s ground-breaking event at Corbin Heights and Pinnacle Heights.

“Today is about community,” he said. “We’re not just moving dirt. This process we have collectively pursued is about building a stronger community that delivers dividends for generations to come.”

The event on Governor Street celebrated the revitalization of the two housing communities. Konover, who acquired them in May, first opened its doors in West Hartford 50 years ago. Its real estate operations now extend to the Midwest. The housing communities were previously owned by CPS Properties, Inc., a subsidiary of the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority.

The $80 million dollar project involved demolition of World War II era housing resulting in construction of 301 new rental homes.

Wakim introduced a sequence of speakers whose comments created a colorful tapestry of the process as a potentially vibrant community.

Mayor Timothy O’Brien recalled that “members of the Residents Council have lived through this long road of efforts, constantly working to keep the plan on the track.”

Robert Michalik, representing U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, D-5th, said the congressman “was pleased he could play a small role helping to arrange some of the subsidies that made financing of this project viable.”

Calling it “a very personal day for me,” DeFronzo quoted President John F. Kennedy. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Today, we can look back at every step of this torturous, 12-year process and appreciate where we are today,” said the Department of Administrative Services commissioner. “I could write a book about this project, complete with political drama, despair and hope, stories of hard work and determination that have gotten us here today.”

As members of the state legislature, DeFronzo and O’Brien shepherded special legislation through the House and Senate that was later signed into law. It required bond authorization, plus a new approach that gave residents a direct voice in the planning process. It also required negotiations, financing and approvals from various agencies.

The public-private partnership, financed in part by Low Income Housing Tax Credit proceeds, is administered by CHFA. National Equity Fund serves as the tax credit syndicator, with equity investors JP Morgan Chase and TD Bank for the Corbin Heights and Pinnacle Heights Extension projects, respectively. Additional financing is provided through CHFA and Connecticut’s Department of Economic and Community Development.

Haynes Construction of Seymour is general contractor for the Corbin Heights project; D’Amato Builders + Advisors, LLC of Norwich, is general contractor for Pinnacle Heights Extension; the architect is Paul B. Bailey, LLC.

“When all the financing was said and done,” DeFronzo continued, “we still needed a governor committed to affordable housing with the courage to release the bond money and that we had in Governor Dan Malloy.”

DeFronzo praised members of the city housing authority who in 2001 voted for the plan “against tremendous political opposition.”

They were David Pollowitz, Kyle Anderson, Elaine Themos and the late Ben Sanchez.

“Those four deserve a profile-in-courage award for what they did,” said DeFronzo. Sanchez even told him that “now that we’ve passed this plan, you’re going to have to run for the state Senate to get it done. And,” said DeFronzo, “Ben was right.”

DeFronzo called Kim McLaughlin “guardian angel” of the process. “As organizer, she counseled [residents] all along the way. Residents here understood the value of community action and political involvement. What they accomplished should be a lesson for every citizen in our democracy.”

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