The Elmcrest Campus, located at the intersection of Main and Marlborough Streets in the heart of Portland, Connecticut, is home to four National Register historic landmark buildings: the Hart-Jarvis House (1829-30), the Erastus Brainerd, Jr. House and Carriage House (1851-52), and the John H. Sage House (1884). The Campus is set among beautifully landscaped grounds that feature trees recognized for their size and rarity.
The latest developer of Elmcrest has stated that perhaps three of these four landmarks will be adaptively reused. The developer will have to present new plans to the Town of Portland. The ECAC, a group of concerned citizens, will assist the Town to insure that any new development will recognize the historic and physical assets of the Elmcrest Campus as well as provide an economic benefit to all.
- PORTLAND BOARD OF SELECTMAN
VCI FINAL REPORT
(also see Rivereast News Bulletin,
August 7, 2015, p.18)
FINAL VCI REPORT FOR ELMCREST SITE IS AVAILABLE HERE.
(updated October 18, 2016)
BOARD OF SELECTMEN REJECT TAX ABATEMENTS FOR BRAINERD PLACE DEVELOPMENT
On September 21, 2016, in a 4 to 3 vote, the Portland Board of Selectmen essentially said NO to the Brainerd Place development plan developed by BRT (Dan Bertram) that would have invested over 30 million dollars in the transformation of the Elmcrest Campus site. That transformation would have included high end apartments, commercial retail, restaurant, and office space, the restoration and reuse of two of the most important historic buildings on the site and an agreement to relocate the third historic building to the corner of the site for development by others.
This NO VOTE ended almost two years of efforts by the owners of the property, BRT, and citizen groups (including the ECAC) to see the Elmcrest Campus developed in ways that would, in the opinion of many) for Portland. The plan was endorsed in concept by the Portland Economic Development Commission and the Portland Historical Society. It conformed to a $50,000 grant study funded by the CT Trust for Historic Preservation and the Town's Plan of Conservation and Development.
Here is a snap shot of the Minutes of the 9/21/16 BOS Meeting:
Here are the complete Minutes from the 9/21/16 BOS Meeting:
FOR MORE INFORMATION SEE:
Elizabeth Regan, "Elmcrest Project Appears Dead," Rivereast News Bulletin, September 23, 2016.
Elizabeth Regan, "Plan Would Save Portland Historic Home" Rivereast News Bulletin, August 12, 2016.
Elizabeth Regan, "A Look at Elmcrest's Historic Homes" Rivereast News Bulletin, August 12, 2016.
OTHER RECENT DEVELOPMENTS OF NOTE:
AT THE JULY 14, 2016 MEETING OF THE PORTLAND PLANNING ZONING COMMISSION (A CONTINUED HEARING FROM JUNE 16, 2016) the following text ammendment (as proposed by the owner/developer of "Brainerd Place" (aka Elmcrest Campus) was adopted by a vote of 4 to 1.
Here is the Proposed Text Ammendmemnt to Town of Portland Zoning Regulations Section 9.17.1 (Mixed Use Development - Purpose) that was passed: to add the following at the end of the first paragraph:
"Residential units in a MUD shall consist of studio, one, or two bedroom units only, with a maximum of 55% as two-bedroom units. Under no circumstances shall a MUD contain more than 240 units.
In the event that a Mixed Use Development incorporates the preservation of significant historic resources identified in the Town's Plan of Conservation and Development, the ratio between residential and commercial uses shall not be less than one (1) residential unit for each 5,000 square feet of commercial/retail establishment nor more than sixteen (16) residential units for each 5,000 square feet of commercial development."
FOR INFORMATION SEE:
Regan, Elizabeth, "Elmcrest Project Clears Hurdle" Rivereast News Bulletin, July 22, 2016.
Mill, Jeff, "Portland Zoning Member Threatens Suit at Heated Elmcrest Meeting," The Middletown Press, July 21, 2016 (See:
Regan, Elizabeth, "How Would Elmcrest Project Impact Portland?" Rivereast News Bulletin, July 8, 2016.
Regan, Elizabeth, "Elmcrest Tax Abatement on Hold" Rivereast News Bulletin, July 8, 2016.
Regan, Elizabeth, "Affordable Housing 'Threats' for Elmcrest," Rivereast News Bulletin, June 24, 2016
Regan, Elizabeth, "Impact of Elmcrest Project on the Town," Rivereast News Bulletin, June 24, 2016
This text ammendment language is different than the text ammendment language proposed by the P&ZC. That ammendment was discussed and considered at the April 21, 2016 P&ZC meeting but was withdrawn. (see Elizabeth Regan, "Residents Balk at Proposed Zone Change" News Bulletin, April 29, 2016.
INFORMATION PRESENTED BY THE DEVELOPER OF BRAINERD PLACE (AT THE JUNE 16, 2016 P&ZC MEETING)
Note: We have reached out to both Dan Bertram, the developer of "Brainerd Place" and a representative of some of those citizens who spoke out against the proposed zoning text ammendment. We have not heard back that this representative will be able to provide us with information. (If and when that happens, it will be posted here.)
Dan Bertram provided us with the "entire presentation" that he had prepared for the June 16, 2016 P&ZC meeting. This presentation was not fully shown at that meeting, due to objections from the Chair of the P&ZC. Mr. Bertram wrote to us that
" the slides that we did not get to present assume the tax abatement is granted and shows the projected revenue to the town both during the abatement period and after. The cash flow is significant - and knowing that would help alleviate many concerns expressed by the public." He noted that he hoped this presentation would "be supplemented by my comments upon presentation."
Here is a PDF of the entire presentation:
Below are some screen shots from the above-referenced presentation:
FORMER DEVELOPMENT PLAN:
At the EDC meeting of June 14, 2016, Dan Bertram of BRT (developer of "Braninerd Place") revealed that the following "Concept Plan" is closest to the present development goals. This does not show the relocated Hart-Jarvis House plan.)
THE FOLLOWING IS A MEMO FROM DONALD J. POLAND, SVP & MANAGING DIRECTOR, URBAN PLANNING, GOMAN & YORK:
The following is a statement by the Portland Economic Development Commission, read at the June 2016 P&ZC meeting by Elwin Guild, Chairman of the EDC:
The following is a statement by the Portland Historical Commission, read at the June 2016 P&ZC meeting by Claire Frisbie, Trustee:
On Tuesday, June 14, 2016, Portland's Economic Development Commission held a public meeting (note that all of the EDC's meetings are typically open to the public) to host a question and answer session with the owner's and developer's of "Brainerd Place" (aka Elmcrest Campus). For newspaper reports of this meeting, see:
Mill, Jeff, "Developer Presents Apartment Plans on Former Elmcrest Property in Portland," The Middletown Press, June 15, 2015.
Also see Regan, Elizabeth, "Meetings Next Week on Elmcrest Proposal," Rivereast News Bulletin, June 10, 2016.
INFORMATION ON THE BOARD OF SELECTMEN'S 03/09/16 MEETING:
If you missed the Board of Selectmen's March 9th "Special Joint Meeting with the Planning and Zoning Commission" (and the Economic Development Commission), you can see the video recording of the entire meeting at:
(To see the second part of the meeting, click the "Up Next" video.)
For newspaper reports on this meeting, see:
Mill, Jeff, "Portland Residents Concerned About Apartment Plan on Elmcrest Campus" The Middletown Press, March 10 2016
Regan, Elizabeth, "Changes Coming to Elmcrest Proposal," Rivereast News Bulletin, March 4, 2016.
Mill, Jeff, "Portland Stakeholders to Discuss Rezoning Historic Elmcrest Site," The Middletown Press, March 8, 2016.
(updated January 15, 2017)
BOARD OF SELECTMEN WILL REVISIT TAX ABATEMENTS FOR BRAINERD PLACE DEVELOPMENT
Much has happened since our last update, including the developer’s announcement that subsidized and/or incentive housing is being studied (instead of a mixed use development) for the Elmcrest campus. While concept site plans have not been made available, based on reporting, these plans appear to roughly double the number of housing units proposed to date, include more bedrooms in each unit, do not include significant commercial development, and may reuse only the Brainerd House. The First Selectwoman has come out forcefully against this kind of development and the Board of Selectmen (BOS) authorized her to re-negotiate tax abatements with the developer for the original concept that the BOS voted down 4-3 (see background information below).
The negotiations have resulted in an agreement – at least between Susan Bransfield and Dan Bertram (the developer) – to proceed with a restructured tax abatement schedule. This agreement will need to be ratified by the BOS, and this may happen at their upcoming February 1st meeting. There is a good chance that this issue may be discussed by the BOS at their next meeting Wednesday, January 18, 2017 (7:00 pm in the Mary Flood Room at the Portland Library) and public comments are on the Agenda.
Two exhibits are copied below. The first is documentation issued by the First Selectwoman’s office, outlining the agreed tax abatement structure. The second is an article summarizing recent events. (Elizabeth Regan, “Tax Abatement for Elmcrest Back on the Table,” Rivereast News Bulletin, January 13, 2017).
Finally, after these exhibits we post other news articles related to these developments.
Elmcrest Campus Advisory Committee (ECAC) Portland, Connecticut
The Elmcrest Campus Advisory Committee's mission is to assist the Town of Portland
plan for commercial development of the former Elmcrest Hospital Campus.
Our objective is to prove that adaptive reuse of the site's historic structures and landscape
is essential for Portland's economic future.
No taxpayer funding is associated with the ECAC.
THE ECAC WELCOMES YOUR COMMENTS. SCROLL DOWN TO BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE.
Elizabeth Regan, “Tax Abatement for Elmcrest Back on the Table,” Rivereast News Bulletin, January 13, 2017
Jeff Mill, “Portland, Developer Hammer Out New Mixed-Use Plan for Elmcrest Site,” The Middletown Press, January 12, 2017
Jeff Mill, “Reworked Elmcrest Mixed-Use Plan Would Include Saving Historical Portland Homes,” The Middletown Press, December 30, 2016
Elizabth Regan, “Affordable Housing Proposed for Elmcrest.” Rivereast News Bulletin, December 23, 2016
Jeff Mill, “Portland Selectmen Encourage Further Negotiation with Elmcrest Developer,” The Middletown Press, December 23, 2016
Jeff Mill, “Elmcrest Developer Revives Plan with Three Alternatives in Portland,” The Middletown Press, December 21, 2016
Elizabeth Regan, “Ethics Commission Vindicates Resident,” and “Options Abound for Elmcrest Property,” Rivereast News Bulletin, November 18, 2016
(Update News - September 6, 2017)
In March of 2017 the town of Portland's Board of Selectmen agreed with BRT DiMarco PPT LLC to a tax abatement schedule "for a $30 million project to bring 240 apartments and 89,400 square feet of commercial space to the vacant Elmcrest Hospital property while preserving two 19th century homes and allocating land to relocate a third."
- Elizabeth Regan, "Elmcrest Tax Break Signed, Sealed, Delivered," Rivereast News Bulletin, March 24, 2017. For this article go to http://www.glcitizen.com/archives/2017/3-24-2017.pdf
- For related articles, see:
Elizabeth Regan, "Elmcrest Vote Postponed," Rivereast News Bulletin, March 3, 2017
Elizabeth Regan, "Selectmen Approve Own Elmcrest Tax Break," Rivereast News Bulletin, March 17, 2017. http://www.glcitizen.com/archives/2017/3-17-2017.pdf
In early August, 2017, BRT representatives met with the town of Portland's "Development Division Team" to "discuss the status of the proposed Brainerd Place mixed use development project."
Jeff Mill, "Traffic Study for Portland Elmcrest Property Discussed," The Middletown Press, August 10, 2017
In the meantime, related planning for the Brainerd House, the Sage House and the Hart-Jarvis House historic buildings on the development site, has proceeded apace.
- Elizabeth Regan, "How to Preserve Historic Homes?," Rivereast News Bulletin, August 11, 2017.
And a Planning and Zoning Commission "Preliminary Development Plan Workshop" was held August 17, 2017 to discuss commission members possible concerns and issues related to the expected site plan application.
- Elizabeth Regan, "Elmcrest Workshop to be Held," Rivereast News Bulletin, August 11, 2017.
- Elizabeth Regan, "Traffic, Trees Highlight Elmcrest Project Concerns" Rivereast News Bulletin, August 25, 2017.
At this meeting, the following plan, "Layout & Materials Plan" by CCA, LLC (civil engineers), dated August 11, 2017, was entered into the record. Here it is:
Wednesday, February 1, 2017: Mary Flood Room, Portland Library
BOARD OF SELECTMEN WILL REVISIT TAX ABATEMENTS FOR BRAINERD PLACE DEVELOPMENT
The ECAC has agreed to strongly support the latest compromise agreement reached between the First Selectwoman and the Developer for tax deferrals.
Below is an exhibit demonstrating the CHOICE before the Board of Selectmen.