Hales Court construction on track
With the ongoing construction at Hales Court, which will bring 78 units of affordable housing to Westport, the foundation is already there; both figuratively and literally. The first round of new homes are on track for a September completion.
"A lot of the foundations were there already. They look so good that they appear new, don't they?" said Carol Martin, director of the Westport Housing Authority (WHA). "They were built in the early 50s, so they really did good work [back then]."
The houses will be for low to moderate income families and senior citizens. Aside from some of the completed foundations, there isn't much to see at Hales Court just yet. Out of the 40 existing houses, the existing foundation will remain at 31 of them. Heavy machinery is situated all around the work site, and the area, covered in snow and dirt, is fenced off. Most of the work taking place this winter is occurring beneath the ground.
"What you're seeing right now is the preliminary site work, which is installing drainage, water sediments -- the basic ground infrastructure," Martin said.
Nearby, the Hales Road Bridge is also being worked on. It's been closed since December 2008, forcing residents to drive a short distance to the entrance on Hillspoint Road.
While the weather hasn't been the best, Ross Burton, vice president of the construction company MSC of Fairfield County, said it's been agreeable enough for the construction of the homes.
"It's going good despite the weather," Burton said in an interview on Thursday. "We've been obviously dealing with the snow and the timing of the snow within the process hasn't been the greatest, but we're picking up steam and expecting decent weather like it is today."
In early March, he expects the framing of the houses to begin.
In December 2009, 17 of the 40 homes were demolished. This staggered demolition was done since not all the tenants would have been able to be placed in housing around town. According to Martin, some of the families were placed in housing already under control by the WHA, and for the remaining eight or nine families, landlords in town were able to provide affordable housing for the temporarily displaced people.
Once the first phase is complete, families in the remaining 13 homes will be moved so that those buildings can be demolished and then rebuilt.
The old homes, originally intended for returning veterans, kept a mostly cookie-cutter look with little distinction between each one. One of the goals of the project is to change that.
"They're all going to have some individual characteristics," Burton said. "These houses, people have been living here for a long time, but they all sort of looked alike. This project will utilize different colors, different finishes and siding, and the application of fences and architectural details on an individual basis."
All of the homes will be deemed affordable, which under Connecticut statute 8-30g, is equal to families whose income is 80 percent of the state median income or area median income -- whichever is lowest. In the case of the area around Westport, the state median income is less.
According to Westport News archives, the $25 million project is being funded by grants and investors who are given tax credits in exchange for investing in Hales Court.