Fate of Jewish Home property uncertain as move advances
The Jewish Home for the Elderly's proposal to build a 360,000-square-foot building on Park Avenue in Bridgeport, which would combine the JHE and Jewish Community Center on one property, is heading to a public hearing April 30 in Bridgeport City Hall.
The hearing before the city's Inland Wetlands Agency will take place at 6 p.m. at 45 Lyon Terrace.
The JHE and JCC have signed an agreement that calls for the JHE to purchase the 10.6-acre property at 4128 Park Ave. from the JCC, and the organizations would share space in a four-story, multi-wing building that would replace the existing JCC building, according to Andrew Banoff, president and CEO of the JHE, and a report from Fairfield's Conservation Department.
"We do have a contract under which we have the right to buy it, and by the time we start construction, we would acquire it," Banoff said.
Banoff couldn't say when construction on the new complex might begin because that depends on Bridgeport land-use approvals and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development providing funds toward the project. "Until we have the mortgage approved through HUD, I'm not going to predict a timeline," he said.
A firm estimate on the overall cost of the project, including land acquisition and construction, is still being determined, Banoff said. The JCC's property is assessed at $7 million, which would give it an appraised value of $10 million.
The JHE now has 360 beds on its 175 Jefferson St. property in Fairfield, and the proposed building on Park Avenue would have 280 skilled nursing beds and 40 assisted-living units, Banoff said.
Banoff said plans to merge the JHE and JCC on the JCC's current site "promises to be one of the first truly intergenerational complexes built maybe anywhere."
"It's a truly integrated campus," he said.
Bridgeport's Planning and Zoning Commission already has approved a zone change for the JCC's property and text amendments to city zoning regulations to enable the project to be built. The commission still has to approve a special permit application and site plan, though. "We'll still have to come back with a final site plan after we get HUD approval," Banoff said.
Plans filed in Bridgeport's Inland Wetlands Department say the proposed building won't affect wetlands, but part of the project would be within wetland setbacks. The Fairfield Conservation Department, which was asked to review the proposal because it is within 500 feet of the Fairfield border, just across Park Avenue. The Fairfield panel is also concerned that the proposed building would be closer to wetlands than the JCC's existing building, and department staff thought more detention of stormwater should be provided and also recommended that the soil erosion and sediment control plan be "completely revised."
The size of the proposed building that would house the JHE and JCC is about 17 percent larger than the combined size of the organizations' two separate buildings -- the JHE's gross square footage in Fairfield is now 209,207 and the JCC's gross square footage is now 89,575. Parking would be both beneath and adjacent to the proposed building, according to the report from Fairfield's Conservation Department.
The JHE has tried for several years to build a new home, including on its Jefferson Street property in Fairfield, but was unable to obtain approvals from land-use agencies. Banoff said in prior public hearings that the JHE wants rooms for its residents to be less institutional, and more apartment-like, in appearance and design.
Bridgeport City Council members Michelle Lyons and AmyMarie Vizzo-Paniccia expressed support last year for the project, as did Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, according to a published report. Lyons, in a published statement, said she was concerned that Sacred Heart University, whose main campus is across Park Avenue in Fairfield, may try to acquire the JCC property and use it for student housing. Instead, she pefers that SHU acquire the current JHE site at 175 Jefferson St.
Funda Alp, an SHU spokeswoman, wasn't immediately available to say if SHU might be interested in acquiring the Jewish Home for the Elderly's current property in Fairfield. That property is assessed at $21.8 million, which would give it an appraised value of $31 million.
As for the future of the Jewish Home's Fairfield property, Banoff said, "Until we are definitive with all approvals, we have not made any commitments about what would happen here. It's premature to envision what that would be."