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Great Pond Village to Add Thousands of Windsor Residents

Developers presented a plans for development of the 600-plus acre residential, commercial and recreational property to the town council and planning and zoning committee Wednesday night.

One way to attract big businesses and and a strong workforce to the area is to build a town customized to fit their needs — a town complete with residential units that range from classic, single-family homes to studio apartments for rent above retail shops, and eateries designed to attract patrons from near and far, located within walking distance of sprawling recreational facilities and open space.

That's what Massachusetts-based company Winstanley Enterprises and ABB plan to build in Windsor. With the development and transition of ABB's property off of Day Hill Road into Great Pond Village, the two companies and town officials are hoping to allow the town to remain competitive as a potential home for employers and their employees while maintaining the current property tax base, to which property owners contribute 30 to 40 cents on every dollar the town makes, according to Town Manager Peter Souza.

Both Winstanley and ABB addressed the town council and the planning and zoning committee on Wednesday, presenting a concept plan for a development like no other in the area.

The proposed 653-acre development would include:

  • 4,010 residential units, including multifamily homes, condos and rental units, and single-family attached and stand alone homes for sale.
  • a projected population of 7,847 residents upon completion (including 720 children who could attend Windsor Public Schools).
  • 640,000 square feet of small business and corporate office space.
  • 85,000 square feet of retail space.
  • Connection to the Farmington River and Northwest Park trails
  • State of the art technology (broadband wireless access, community intranet and energy efficiency)
  • 355 acres of open space, recreational space or natural preserve (including small, neighborhood parks throughout the development).
  • A pedestrian-oriented market district with small retailers, restaurants and an active market house (year-round farmer's market).

"This is not a gated community," said David Winstanley of Winstanley. "It's a unique project unlike anything in the area... In New England people tend to build small developments with little risk. This is a big risk... We know the potential is there, and we think we have the right piece of land to do it on."

One of the major reasons the risk is worth taking, according to Jim Burke, economic development director for the town, is the need to attract the people businesses are looking to hire: young professionals.

"If we don't do something like this... It's more likely that we'll lose companies," Burke said.

The reason for the potential loss of Windsor companies is the inability to find a large, qualified workforce nearby, said Burke. Winstanley added to Burke's assessment of Windsor's attractiveness to young professionals, saying that people move to either Manchester or Middletown after graduating from college. Windsor's lack of rental properties is tha largest contributing factor, added Burke.

"Workers who are coming out of college need a place to live," said Burke. "Over 68 percent of housing in Windsor is owner occupied. We haven't built a rental project in Windsor in 35 years."

The property, to be built on the former engineering and development site that was once Combustion Engineering, would be completed over a 14 to 20 year span.

According to a December 2010 Hartford Business article, the project would cost $750 million; however, it was revealed during the town council meeting Wednesday night that the town would not be responsible for bonds issued to fund the project.

In addition, a financial study commissioned by Winstanley and ABB and conducted by TischlerBise, Inc., a national group that analyses cost growth and revenue enhancement issues, found that the project would yield approximately $2 million annually to the town.

Inflation was not taken into account in the study, however, the study did find that "projected revenues are sufficient to pay for capital improvements," which would come in the form of a new fire station and apparatus, new police station or substation and vehicles, and additional seats for added students, all needed to serve the growing population in town, according to TischlerBise principal Julie Herlands.

According to town documents, the former Combustion Engineering property, located off of Day Hill Road and used in the company's production of fuel for nuclear power plants and development of fossil fuel technologies, has undergone an intensive cleanup program over the past 15 years.

The cleanup process is expected to be completed this year, according to ABB's Web page dedicated to the cleanup effort. According to the site, the cleanup is on track to meet local farming standards, making it suitable for a person to "live on the site and be able to get water and grow food on the site safely for 40 years."

 

Malvi Lennon May 15, 2011 at 04:39 PM
I did not say renters do not contribute to the community- in fact some do - while many homeowners have little association with community or civic organizations. What I said is that renters do not have a stake in the neighborhood, for example maintenance and upkeep of property (with exceptions). When people own something, it is in their interest for the value to appreciate therefore aesthetics, cleanliness, etc. matters. Renters on the other hand do not have anything to loose - they can always move on. Where can I find the specifics of the presentation? As you have pointed out it is good to have references where people can check out the information for themselves. I would like to look at the proposals and research other communities, compare geography, demographics, etc. I am open to the idea of the proposed project however, I need to know more about it before I can embrace or oppose it.
R Eleveld May 16, 2011 at 01:36 AM
Renter do not have responsibility to maintain property like a homeowner, unless the rental agreement says so. I believe that the majority of these units will be in buildings. I will see if we have a copy available on line. I agree on the references and will see if I can get you the information. I think the bigger question is will this drain the Town's coffers or a net basis or add funds to the coffers.
Bill Generous June 14, 2011 at 07:37 PM
Our current property taxes are paying for the renovations at Windsor High School.
R Eleveld June 14, 2011 at 08:10 PM
Mr. Generous, please explain. Yes we are paying for renovations to the schools in the bonds we pay for the renovation and/or construction of those schools net of State reimbursement. Bothe Windsor High and Sage Park have been renovated within the past decade or so, and we are still paying off the indebtedness. I presume that is what you were referring to.
R Eleveld June 21, 2011 at 11:56 PM
I asked about other similar projects around the country. Here is a list of 4 such projects: King Farm - Rockville, MD http://www.kingfarm.org/Citizens-Assembly~74008~12658.htm Kentlands – Gaithersburg, MD http://www.kentlandsusa.com/outside_home.asp Baxter Village – Fort Mill, SC http://www.villageofbaxter.com/ Issaquah Highlands – Issaquah,WA http://issaquahhighlands.com/
Skip Cashwell July 18, 2011 at 03:22 PM
You can add to that one of the older, & very successful efforts: Reston, VA (far suburb of Washington DC). Now Louden County, VA, which contains the Dulles Airport area has, over the past 20 years, become a major economic force with attendant tax revenue increases, great schools etc. The Great Pond project can lead to some really fine expansions for Windsor. Look at West Hartford; Blue Crab Square! Someone complains about the tax breaks for CIGNA...well, how about Windsor having affordable, yes, rental property for not only the new CIGNA employees but also ING folks?
Malvi Lennon July 18, 2011 at 04:06 PM
I have been checking out the developments mentioned here and others and I admit they look promising. However I do have a few concerns such as the communities here seem to be in areas where there is a big reliance on public transportation let's face it that is not the case in Windsor so parking for residents, customers, and commercial tenants will be an issue. In addition, what happens to the center of town and the little restaurants there? On the issue of "affordable" housing at the risk of angering some, the concept is great but exactly what is affordable housing and how would it affect the quality of life in Windsor? I for one do not want to attract a transient un-invested crowd that will bring down the overall value of neighboring properties because of their behaviors and life style renders our town less safe.
Jan Porri July 18, 2011 at 05:01 PM
A couple of quick questions....after the 'clean up', the property will be livable and provide water and food for 40 years....does this 40 year clock start to tick when the site has been cleaned up, or when the 14 - 20yr. completion is done? Seems to me construction will impact that timetable? So now 40 years looks like a reality of 20-26 years after all is said and done... And how will this impact the real estate market of existing homes in the Windsor that is already here?? And why not pour some $$ into revitalizing our current Windsor center and draw the community there with more shops etc. And we won't even talk about the schools - thank goodness my last one graduates net year!
R Eleveld July 18, 2011 at 09:01 PM
The center of Windsor will be fine, as more people come into Town some will migrate to the Center to use the fine shops, but more will use the banks. Public Transportation I think will come about if there is a demand. The affordable housing question can be asked of the developers at the meeting on "Wed., July 20. Town officials are inviting Windsor residents and business owners to come to Council Chambers and learn about the Great Pond Village Development to be constructed off of Day Hill Road. Upon completion over the next 20 years, the development's 4,000 residential units will boost Windsor's population, which has remained relatively level over the past decade, by an estimated 7,800 people." It should be interesting.
R Eleveld July 18, 2011 at 09:08 PM
I am not sure where the "water and food" comment comes from. Please explain. The impact on existing home would be similar to any housing created by any developer. Of course this large a project could force home prices down if they built and tried to sell the whole thing in a year or two or three. That is clearly not the case. The project will be a 15 to 20 year build. I am sure they will build what the market can absorb annually or they risk being on the losing side of that equation. The center is privately owned as this project is privately owned. I am not inclined to spend public money on private purposes, and that includes the bailouts. As for the schools, I do not believe they will be negatively affected. The demographics indicate such. I would suggest strongly anyone with questions or opinions should attend the informational meeting on Wed., July 20. Town officials are inviting Windsor residents and business owners to come to Council Chambers and learn about the Great Pond Village Development to be constructed off of Day Hill Road.
R Eleveld July 18, 2011 at 09:26 PM
I wrote two articles about this project for the Windsor Journal. The first about the project in general: http://www.thewindsorjournal.com/images/stories/edition/july082011/ The other to discuss the potential financial impacts: http://www.thewindsorjournal.com/images/stories/edition/july012011/
M Hale July 19, 2011 at 12:21 AM
Following up on Jan Porri's comment and RE's response: Has there been any discussion on the current state of Windsor Center/Downtown Windsor which has vacant storefronts on every block? The center has easy access to public transportation (buses and trains) and so many community amenities (PO, library, Town Hall, Town Green). Will the Great Pond development lure businesses and restaurants away from the center? I would like to learn more about plans but am mainly concerned with further deterioration of what could be a thriving downtown.
Malvi Lennon July 19, 2011 at 12:39 AM
I will try to go to the meeting I share the concerns expressed by downstown, existing real state, traffic, schools, etc.
Jan Porri July 19, 2011 at 02:28 AM
I am not sure where the "water and food" comment comes from. Please explain. Straight out of the article... The cleanup process is expected to be completed this year, according to ABB's Web page dedicated to the cleanup effort. According to the site, the cleanup is on track to meet local farming standards, making it suitable for a person to "live on the site and be able to get water and grow food on the site safely for 40 years."
R Eleveld July 19, 2011 at 01:26 PM
There are some vacant storefronts, the most notable is the plaza building. The majority of the lineal feet of downtown or Broad Street is banks and services (dentist, optometrist, real estate agent, restaurants and not retail. The idea of a vibrant downtown is a place to walk and shop. In Downtown Windsor unless you are buying and selling money, your choices are unfortunately limited. Let's look at about 2 blocks of Broad Street. On the west side from Elm to Rte 75 we have the VFW, a bank, another bank, a parking lot, a dentist, Nat Hayden's, Taste of India, a bank, a driving school, I think, an optometrist I think, a Real Estate firm, I think, a hairdresser and another bank. On the East side, we have the Town Hall, The Windsor Chamber,a nd a hairdresser behind them, the Post Office, CVS, a storefront, an insurance agency, a Family Pizza, a nail place, Bill Selig Jewelers and the Masonic Lodge. Where would you like to shop? I am not sure what we can do about that but I am willing to listen. However I am not interested at this point in buying the Plaza Building. I do not think the Town should be in the Real Estate business. Great Pond will add 8,000 residents and that should provide some spillover into the downtown shops or better put services, and, well, banks.
R Eleveld July 19, 2011 at 01:28 PM
Thank you for the clarification. I think that the 40 years is a time frame required for a report. I will ask. It does beg the question what happens after 40 years?
R Eleveld July 20, 2011 at 03:50 PM
Jan, I requested and received the following information. We've consulted with John Conant, ABB's Director of Nuclear Engineering and Compliance, about ABB's website reference to "40 years." This reference was meant to indicate that the site is being cleaned up to the federal standard that's generally referred to as the "resident farmer level." This assumes that people would be living on the site, drinking water from the site and growing and consuming food from the site for a lifetime and that they would be able to do so with no effect to their health or safety due to radiological residuals. The site is being remediated to meet federal and state standards under the resident farmer scenario, which is the strictest standard of radiological cleanup. Both the state and federal government are verifying that the prescribed standards are being met by ABB during and after the cleanup. ABB will be changing their website to clarify the cleanup standard that they are meeting (technically referred to as the resident farmer exposure scenario) and removing the reference of "40 years." They should have instead said "lifetime."
Don Chapman July 29, 2011 at 03:44 PM
Hello, I'm a Windsor resident and an urban planner by trade. It's been my experience that large ownership/rental developments generally do not do well unless they are really well designed and have the appropriate ratio of owners to renters. How will you acheive this mix? How will the project be configured? What model are you using that supports your hunch that it can be successful? Thanks Don Chapman
R Eleveld July 29, 2011 at 05:30 PM
Don, We have had many questions on this project. I was present at the public presentation and discussion of this project. As your Town Councilman I was preset then, and will be present at the financial presentation in August. This is a request I received from a resident for information. and the answer I received. I will also include another query and my response. You should try to be present at the meeting in. Ron
R Eleveld July 29, 2011 at 05:33 PM
QUESTIONS: 1. Percentage/Number of residential rental units 2. Percentage/Number of residential owner units And at what phase of the project will the single family units be developed? And what will be the price range of the single family units? ANSWERS: 1. Percentage/Number of residential rental units 47.5% or 1,904 units are planned to be rental. A total number of 4,010 residential units are planned. 2. Percentage/Number of residential owner units 52.5% or 2,106 units are planned to be for sale. What phase of the project will the single family units be developed? Single family attached (townhomes) as well multi-family condominiums will be developed in Phase 1 if market allows. Single family detached units are slated to be marketed / developed starting potentially in Phases I & II. Likely in Southeast section of site. What will be the price range of the single family units? Using current dollars the price range for single family units will be $250,000 to 450,000.
Malvi Lennon July 29, 2011 at 07:08 PM
This is part of my concern: 1. Percentage/Number of residential rental units 47.5% or 1,904 units are planned to be rental. That is a huge concentration of renters in one area. In addition, what is the range for rent? This rental project is in addition to the apartments, which will be constructed near the RR track. What studies are there to substantiate all these units will be occupied without making some units available for low income/section 8? Sorry but I do not want to see a project like developments in our backyard. Also when in august is the next presentation?
R Eleveld July 29, 2011 at 07:53 PM
Another Question: Ron, do you think that attacting renters before home buyers is wise for the future growth, stability and tranquility of our town? My Response: If we want future residents to come and stay in Windsor we need to give them a place to work, stay, live and grow in Windsor. If you live as a renter in Windsor, you use the local Doctor, Dentist, hair cutting place, the local bank, insurance agent, or financial adviser and other shops and services, plus, go to Shad Derby, the Chili Fest, Northwest Park Fair, and hopefully get involved with a civic group or two in our town. If you live in Windsor you may most likely look to stay in Windsor for that first home, the second and so on. Otherwise you work here and live elsewhere and never come to Windsor, use Windsor businesses or consider it as a place to live. At the public discussion of this project a young man mentioned he was working in Windsor, and lived in MA. He wanted to move closer, This young man looked for apartments and found none he liked in Windsor, however he found one he liked in West Hartford. So when he decided to buy, he bought a house not far from his apartment, and has since bought an investment property also in West Hartford. Had he found an apartment in Windsor he would most likely be talking about Windsor and not West Hartford. Some thoughts from me. Ron
R Eleveld July 30, 2011 at 03:24 AM
Malvi, good questions. The concentration of renters would work out to be ~125 per year. The rental rate is supposed to be something north (higher) that $175 or thereabouts/sf. So a 600 sf unit would cost some $900 per month, and would require an income of some $50K/year. Not likely a Section 8 tenant. Also Section 8 is a voucher program, and you could in theory have a section 8 voucher holder living next door to you and you would not know it. The maximum voucher is ~900/mo. INCLUDING Heat and Hot Water. Also FYI "affordable housing" is not going to be a part of this project. That requires certain covenants and higher densities. We ahve no upscale aprtments in town. The Mechanics street property is being built as we understand it with a goal of converting to condos some 5 to 10 years from now. Great Pond is a mixed use mixed ownership project.
R Eleveld July 31, 2011 at 08:31 PM
I have received request for information and comments. Most I think might be of interest to other residents. These are a series of several posts (Noted Post A.. B.. etc.) related to questions or concerns of Windsor residents as it relates to Great Pond, the writer and personally identifiable information has been removed: Question/Comment: I agee, we want find upstanding citizens to be attracted to, put down roots and become assests to our town. Look at it from another perspective. A cluster of over 1,600 rentals move in, with the idea that someday in the future these same renters will decide to put down roots in our town, as appose to Simsbury, Greenwich, West Hartford or Boston, etc. Do you think that to be wishful thinking? and flirting with the unknown. ANSWER: No, I do not think it is wishful thinking. You are correct in that it maybe flirting with an unknown, but they will not be building this all in a year, it is a 15 to 20 year project. Winstanley Enterprises are accomplished real estate developers. I think you should be asking about the capital and finances of this project for its stability. A poorly capitalized project could result in real risk of all the negatives you may think could happen.
R Eleveld July 31, 2011 at 08:34 PM
Question/Comment: Ron, what we do know is that a large concentration of renters are unstable and transient. Most renters, not all, are not only new to the workforce, but also at the low end of the wage scale. Answer: There maybe some truth to this, but in 2011, that is not an accurate assessment. In today's market many people can't afford the 20% down, or have longevity in employment, or income for a home, or go through the very complicated home purchasing process. They will rent, vs purchasing a still declining asset. Home prices have still not stabilized. I believe we have another 2 years in my professional opinion which is a reason to rent. Other reasons to rent are many, including an executive that is new to the area and is looking for an apartment before he/she buys or because they can't sell in another market. This exact situation was reported in the WSJournal this week. The guy or gal moving out of the family home... The guy/gal moving up the corporate ladder and needs to land somewhere... The older couple wanting to keep a low cost toehold in the area for kids as they move to another state... I can go on. Rents are a function of the cost of construction. The higher the construction costs the higher the rents MUST be. No one works for free! The rents at Great Pond are expected to be in the upper range of the area. Not as high as Blue Back Square, but higher than Bloomfield's recent projects and higher than those in Manchester.
R Eleveld July 31, 2011 at 08:38 PM
Questions/Comments: This large number of houses with families lead to an over crowded school system, lowering the quality of education, followed by a sharp rise in crime. ANSWER: This argument about schools unfortunately does not stand up to the demographic evidence. In the past 3 budget years we have lost almost 400 students. There is no baby boom, as has been noted by others. In the FY2010 year we had 3,886 students, and in FY2011 we had 3,624 a loss of 262 student, and in FY2012 we are projected to have 3,487 students a loss of 137 students. 399 student in 3 fiscal years. When I started on the council 4 years ago we had over 4,000 students. The loss in just the 3 years mentioned is 57% of the "potential" 700 students in Great Pond OVER 15 years. The issue with school quality is not related to students in the schools. Sorry the facts clearly indicate no correlation with more kids and lower performance, we have fewer kids and no annual increase in performance has occurred, so more kids will not equal less performance. The issue with education is to make a BoE leadership change. A reader might want to read Mr. Jubrey's recent comments.
R Eleveld July 31, 2011 at 08:42 PM
Question/Comment: The speed and high number of rental units is a concern tothe writer... He continues... This can be slowed down by demanding that the development phase in single family units first. With rental units strategically intergrated throughout the development, in the latter phases. ANSWER: The units will be built at a rate on a linear scale of ~125 rental units, and ~140 owner occupied units per year, not an overwhelming number. Also no builder will build a rental building knowing he will not be able to rent them out. No builder will build homes without having the existing stock sold. So if 100 are built and can not be rented/sold PROFITABLY he will not build another 100 units in the hopes 'they will come'. The 'they will come' concept is the basis of governmental expenditures for the busway and the commuter New Haven/Springfield rail system. So the ~60% of owned units will be made unstable by the 40% of renters? I am not a real estate pro, but I understand good business practices. There are multiple projects like this that have been successful. [A person] has said from his own direct knowledge that a VA project similar in concept to this has been very successful.
R Eleveld July 31, 2011 at 08:45 PM
Question/Comment: As to [person at meeting], I will not question his reasoning for purchasing in West Hartford. Only to say it was not because Windsor did not offer good quality homes in great neighborhoods! [Person at meeting], said Windsor did not offer RENTALS of a quality or type he was looking for. He did rent first, in West Hartford. The argument was he could not find an acceptable, to him, rental in Windsor, and most likely did not want a home, even as a rental, with its upkeep requirements as a young person. We both know the decision to live in West Hartford is the schools, or at least it is an element... However Windsor does not have the same reputation as has been written in the past. So it is more important we provide great rental opportunities.
R Eleveld July 31, 2011 at 08:49 PM
MY FINAL COMMENTS: I want to thank those that do write... This is an important issue for Windsor and all respectful feedback positive and negative is registering with me. As can be seen I do try to answer those concerns. This project has been put together by private people, using private funds and private risk. The options are to develop this project as a mixed use community OR they could have created a monster office park with no amenities? Which approach do we want? This is the real question! The next issue is finances... They are asking for a possible 'investment' in infrastructure by the town, in the form of some type of Tax Increment Financing [See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tax_increment_financing]. The specifics are unknown and this is a very 5,000 foot concept. The finances will be discussed at the next meeting, I do not know the date yet. This is the ONLY decision that the Town Council has any input on.
R Eleveld August 16, 2011 at 01:46 PM
I wanted to remind you that the next Great Pond meeting is August 22nd. Ron 1. Great Pond Informational Meeting The next planned informational meeting is scheduled for August 22nd at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers here at town hall. This meeting will focus on the fiscal impact study completed for the development. Mr. Carson Bise of TischlerBise Consulting will present an overview of the fiscal impact analysis.

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