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Dale Kroop, Director
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HISTORY OF BOROUGH496, AN ASSET COMES TO LIFE

10/15/2019

 

History of BOROUGH496

AKA the Hamden Business Incubator

 (Former Newhall Community Center at 496 Newhall Street)

An Asset Comes to Life


As the current phase of construction winds down, we would like to share the journey of this historic building in Hamden, formerly known as the Newhall School located at 496 Newhall Street. This building has been reborn as BOROUGH496 AKA the Hamden Business Incubator.

Built as a school in 1917, the building known as the Newhall School has had many lives. It almost never got built, the Town Board of Education first rejected the bids because the bids were too high (at $45,000) to build the first 20,000 SF. It was then rebid and built for roughly $38,000 in 1917. There was an addition built in 1925 and then in 1941, the gymnasium was added bringing it to its current size of 40,000+SF.  It operated as a school and then was occupied by many organizations such as the CT Welfare Department, the Fire Department as a Headquarters, the Police Department and eventually became a community center until it completely shut down completely in around 2004 and was left abandoned.

Newhall Consent Order Impact and Building Contamination

It stayed vacant by the Town for nearly 10 years. The building had holes in the roof and was left in disrepair since 2000. Water penetration caused mold and air born asbestos to move freely. There was wet plaster everywhere and the structural condition declined over time.

This property is located in the heart of the Newhall Consent Order area and in in the heart of Hamden’s Opportunity Zone. The clean-up of the land at this site was the responsibility of the Regional Water Authority, who completed the remediation in 2015.

HEDC to the Rescue

In 2009, the Hamden Economic Development Corporation (HEDC) was looking for a project that could become a place for innovation and opportunities for start-up businesses and to further its’ goals of cleaning up blighted and contaminated properties. Dale Kroop is the Executive Director of the HEDC, which serves as a catalyst for enhancing the economic and neighborhood development goals of the Town of Hamden. “Prior to this project we had a great deal of success in obtaining funding to rehabilitate or repurpose blighted and contaminated properties. But we wanted to work on a project that could directly help small companies grow. I had some previous experience in obtaining and building flex space incubators so I saw the Newhall Community Center as an opportunity to do just that in Hamden”, stated Mr. Kroop.

2009 and 2010

Former Mayors Craig Henrici and Scott Jackson, as well as several Legislative Council members supported the idea that HEDC would take over and redevelop the site. In particular, former Council President Al Gorman strongly encouraged the plan to restore the building. The idea for building the incubator began during a community charrette of ideas (2006-7) for the former middle school and other neighborhood properties. During this time the community wanted a mix of uses. The middle school was eventually approved for 87 mixed-income housing units and a community center and Rochford Field and Villano (formerly Milrock) Park were redeveloped as new parks. Integrating an economic development project into the community became a natural fit. 

2010-2014: Plans Are Developed and Funding is Raised

Because projects as complicated as this are hard to fund and plan for, the Town and HEDC first partnered on a grant in 2010 from the State of CT for $450,000. The grant funded a feasibility study, hazardous building evaluation, cost estimate and limited some roof repairs to secure the building temporarily until more significant funding was acquired. The Town/HEDC then received two grants totaling roughly $400,000 funded through REX Development from the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to begin the clean out more of the serious environmental challenges inside the building. As part of the following phase, an additional $650,000 was spent cleaning out a large amount of asbestos as well as mold and wet debris.

The Hamden Economic Development Corporation purchased the building from the Town in December 2013. Between 2013 and the current time HEDC has raised nearly $9 Million from the several sources including $5.5 Million in three grants from the State of CT, over $1.5 Million from the Federal Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration and over $1.9 Million in CT. Historic Tax credits. Additional partners had to be procured as part of the funding plan. Guilford Savings Bank provided a bridge loan and Eversource Energy Company will purchase the tax credits.

2014-2016: Design and Construction Management Team Established  

HEDC first hired Architect Buchanan Associates and then established a team of partners to help get the project designed and into construction. HEDC hired Eagle Environmental as well as Godfrey/Hoffman Engineers and Land Surveyors. It then procured a Construction Manager at RIsk or CMR, the PAC Group to become part of the design team from the beginning. Mr. Kroop explains….

“Because older buildings like this are great mystery, there can be surprise conditions and contamination inside. The cost of change orders could get out of hand using traditional bidding methods.  Using PAC as the CMR, we were able to value engineer project during design to avoid a large number of change orders down the road. We had to convince the funding sources that this was the most sensible way to do it.”

Construction Continues

The first phase of construction was completed in 2016. This phase included a complete roof replacement, the removal of 90% of the asbestos and mold and the removal of the 6,000 gallon Underground Storage Tank (UST).  Phase 2 is now coming to an end and will result in 60% of all square feet available for rent. Phase 3 will begin sometime in 2020.   The first tenants should move in the fall of 2019.

Operations Planning Complete

In addition to the ongoing construction, there is a complicated operational planning process and marketing going on simultaneously. A data/security company developed an access fob and camera system, Comcast provides high speed internet service, and a network consultant has installed a secure Wi-Fi system and cabling system. A new web site and a marketing plan is also underway. “We really have our hands full at this time”, continued Dale Kroop. 

Incubator Programming

BOROUGH496 will be rented to start-up companies and small business owners and will provide business support and mentoring services to help provide the greatest chance of success. Target business will include light manufacturing, light tech and service oriented businesses. There will not be retail or personal services at this site. Co-working space is available as part of tiered membership approach.

There are also public education programs being planned at the site in the content areas of entrepreneurship while the workforce development job training is being considered for the general public. Finally many collaborations will occur at the incubator. “We are attempting to build an economically inclusive value system and economic eco-system in southern Hamden that will benefit the local community as well as becoming an important partner of innovation in the region”, says Dale Kroop. 

All tenants and members will have use of the conference room, WiFi, utilities, parking, and  other amenities as well have access to all programming offered on a 24/7 basis.

This project has been challenging but HEDC has insured the preservation of a great piece of history. We thank the Town officials in particular Mayors Henrici, Mayor Jackson, Mayor Leng and former Council President Al Gorman for encouraging us to keep going. 


For more information about BOROUGH496 (Hamden Business Incubator) at www.borough496.com or

 go to the web site for the Hamden Economic Development corporation at http://www.hamdeneconomicdevelopment.org/ or

contact Dale Kroop at dkroop@hamden.com


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