Wilton Commons opens it doors

In 2004, George Bush was re-elected president, Athens hosted the summer Olympics and Wilton voters approved leasing town land to Wilton Commons, an affordable living option for senior citizens.

There was some negative public sentiment to overcome. Then there was the lackluster economy to overcome. Then there was a state bureaucracy that moved with the speed of a glacier.

Finally, however, a little more than a year ago — on April 11 to be precise — there was a ceremonial groundbreaking on Phase I of the project.

This week, the first tenants were expected to move into the 51-unit project on Station Road. A formal opening is planned for June 15.

Wilton Commons Inc. received its certificate of occupancy on Thursday, April 25, and The Bulletin visited on Friday.

Fifty-one one-bedroom apartments are arranged on three floors, each one from 605 to 630 square feet. They each contain a full kitchen with appliances, wood cabinets and laminate countertops; a living/eating area; a bedroom; and a full bath. Some of the bathrooms have shower/tub combinations, some have open showers that can accommodate a wheelchair. Each bedroom has a double wall closet, and there are a linen closet and coat closet in each unit. There is also an emergency assist alarm in each unit activated by a pull cord.

Each unit also has its own temperature control; tenants pay for their own electric, cable and phone.

Occupancy is restricted to one or two people over 62. Forty percent of the units were set aside for Wilton residents or seniors with a close affiliation to Wilton, such as having adult children living here.

This is not congregate housing as was originally planned; therefore, no meals or housekeeping services will be provided.

There is, however, an office that will be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and a property manager will live on-site. There is also a nurse’s office, and a nurse will have hours yet to be determined.

In addition to the individual units, there are several common areas.

The first floor includes a convenience store and recreation/activity room with its own small kitchen that can be used for social gatherings. It will also have a piano, donated by Ken Dartley, a member of the Wilton Commons board.

A hair salon/barber, recycle room, and the building’s mechanicals are also on the first floor. The apartments do not have washers and dryers, but there is a laundry room on each floor.

On the second floor is another activity room, and the third floor offers a “meditation room” that may be used for religious services. With a cathedral tray ceiling and sunburst window, the room faces east.

“It will be available for what the community wants,” Mr. Dartley said, adding that area churches contributed to its construction costs.

And although meals are not included, a full commercial kitchen was installed along with a dining room that can seat 65 in anticipation of Phase II, which will offer congregate housing for 23 units in an attached wing. (Gov. Dannell Malloy announced a $5.7-million grant earlier this month that will cover construction costs.)

The interior decor was overseen by a committee of Marilyn Hamilton, Courtney Kleemans and Judy Mabley.

The building was designed by Jim Evans of the Wilton architecture firm Evans and Contadina, and the exterior has been partially landscaped with the assistance of Kate Throckmorton.

Energy credits

Although this is not a LEED-certified building, many energy-saving criteria were employed. Lights in the elevator, for example, stay off until someone gets on.

The heating system is so efficient the project qualified for a $95,000 rebate from CL&P.

Keith Cryan, director of housing development for Mutual Housing Association of Southwestern Connecticut, which is in charge of the project, explained that the building uses a mini-split system with Mitsubishi electric heat pumps and air conditioning units.

Surprisingly, he said, electric heat turned out to be the least costly option, and he expects tenants will pay $27 to $30 a month for their heating bill. The next cheapest fuel source, natural gas, would cost about $47 a month, he said.

Units available

According to Mr. Dartley, there were 93 original applicants who underwent a qualification process. Those offered a unit were brought in to choose their units by lottery.

There are three levels of monthly rent based on a tenant’s ability to pay according to the Area Median Income (AMI):

• $517 for households at 25% of AMI.

• $1,119 for households at 50% of AMI.

• $1,330 for households at 60% of AMI.

The lowest level was the most sought-after, and units remain available at the 50% tier and 60% tier. Those wishing to submit an application may download forms at mhaswct.org.

“I think we set an example for other towns,” Mr. Dartley said. “If you want to keep your seniors, build something nice for them.

“I think George and the rest of the group are justifiably proud,” Mr. Dartley said of George Ciaccio, president of Wilton Commons Inc., and the rest of the board. “I hope the town likes it. I know the seniors will like it. How could you not?”