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Creating a Transit-Oriented Mixed-Use Development

Updated: Mar 21, 2023

The number of Americans driving cars is wreaking havoc with climate change, causing acid rain and damaging our respiratory systems.

A West Hartford LaRosa Groups project was intentionally built to address this problem and solve some others in the process by building a transit-oriented development.

A Transit-Oriented Residential Community

Named for its location, 540 New Park is a transit-oriented community specifically developed with convenience as the driving force in compliance with the West Hartford Plan of Conservation and Development. With 52 units of affordable housing and 1,500 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, this location was chosen because of the proximity to the CT Fastrak Busway, Connecticut's bus rapid transit system.

"It’s not only a convenient location for the residents to live and shop but also reduces the need to drive, thereby addressing the growing problems of climate change and energy consumption, two environmental issues we strive to support through our construction choices," explained James LaRosa, CEO of LaRosa Groups.

In addition to the driving force to create this transit-oriented community, there are two other unique features of this mixed-use mixed-income project which are interesting to highlight.

An Affordable-Housing Community with Unique Exteriors

It certainly does not look like a typical affordable housing development. Formerly the site of the long-vacant Acme-Auto Parts warehouse, this redeveloped property boasts a unique exterior and is now a prominent site in the regentrification of the New Park corridor. There is a two-foot ribbon made out of metal studs and siding that accents the three entryways. The patio canopy is wrapped with LED strip lighting that shows up at night. The exterior finish is EIFS (Exterior Insulation Finish Systems); it looks like stucco but is a foam board with a cement finish that allows for different colors and designs.

"The exterior finishes in this community are a source of professional pride for me. This was an old truck repair site, a real eyesore. The combination of stone, stucco, glass, and faux wood in the exterior finishes is very cool and is in line with the overall redevelopment plan for the New Park area," explained Mark Barlow, Project Superintendent of LaRosa Groups.

A Mixed-Income Community with Supportive Housing for Veterans

LaRosa Building Groups is known for its expertise in building mixed-use, mixed-income, multi-family residential and retail communities. At 540 New Park, the apartments are priced both at market rates and at prices that are affordable to working-class families earning at or below 60 percent of the area’s median income. But what makes this project unique is several units were designated as supportive housing for veterans.

With the unique features came some unique challenges.

"We have become experts in anticipating the standard challenges of the pandemic and working with our partners to create cost-effective proactive solutions. Then there are the challenges that are unanticipated. It’s how you handle the unanticipated ones that help define your professional reputation," explained James LaRosa, CEO of LaRosa Groups.

Here are three of the unexpected challenges presented to our team during construction:

Storage: In anticipation of pandemic-related price escalation, supply shortages, and delivery delays, specific items were ordered ahead of schedule. For example, sheetrock pricing was increasing rapidly. The solution was to preorder it. But the challenge was physical storage. It would be unrealistic to store the sheetrock offsite because transporting it there and back would be a hassle. But finding a location on-site for storage was stressful.

"There was the physical challenge of where to store the preordered materials and then the paperwork challenge of documenting the storage process on a spreadsheet. We had nine containers on site, and of course, whatever we needed was typically at the back of the container,” explained Scot R. Thomas, Project Manager of LaRosa Groups.

Environmental clean-up: 540 New Park was a remediation site, a brownfield with the probability of environmental contamination. Once the building was demolished and the parking lot was excavated, three buried fuel tanks were discovered, as well as all types of contaminants; only two tanks were anticipated. An environmental engineering company was hired to take and test the samples. Once the site was declared environmentally safe, we were allowed to fill the hole with specific materials. This process added months to the timeline and extra dollars to the budget.

Concrete issues: On the recommendation of the engineer who wanted to avoid a heavy filler, foam concrete was ordered as a filler under the slab. The company from Virginia came and installed it. Unfortunately, the concrete heated to a temperature of more than 160 degrees and cracked all the plumbing pipes. As a result, the pipes had to be dug up and replaced. Three-eighth inch (3/8") stone was used instead of the foam concrete, which added two months to the timeline and unexpected manpower hours for LaRosa.

“540 Park highlights LaRosa’s extraordinary commitment to the client and the integrity of the project. Our goal is to work through the challenges together as a team and put in the extra hours needed to bring the project to completion,” explained Scot Thomas, Project Manager of LaRosa Groups.

Taking a project from the initial stages to completion is our area of expertise. As a professional construction management company with more than 40 years of experience, we can find workable solutions to the challenges and increase the chances for your commercial construction success.

Let us help you with your next project. Schedule your free consultation today.

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