Wilton Commons gala opening draws hundreds
More than 200 people converged on Wilton Commons Saturday, June 15, for the formal dedication and ribbon-cutting of the senior housing project at 21 Station Road. Throughout the afternoon, groups of people — neighbors, donors, officials, and even those who helped build it — took tours of apartments opened by residents already moved in.
To date, 24 leases have been signed in the 51-unit building.
An overflow crowd spilled out of one of the public rooms to hear speakers testify to the determination of the committees that pursued the project over the course of 15 years of stop-and-go progress. They also heard a surprise announcement that the residence’s first floor would be named for a Wilton couple — Frank and Judy Mabley.
In introducing George Ciaccio, who guided Wilton Commons from the beginning, Ken Dartley said, “He had an idea 15 years ago and he didn’t let it go.” After many setbacks, “we would say, ‘now?’ And he said, ‘No, I’m going to go home and pray and start again.’”
Mr. Ciaccio took to the podium to great applause and said, “I think it is more impressive than I ever imagined. ...
“What we are celebrating here today is the culmination of hard work, persistence and prayer. … This building is more than bricks and mortar. It is a reflection of the good community it will serve.”
Mr. Ciaccio offered thanks to the following who were instrumental in the realization of Wilton Commons:
• Nancy Hadley and Keith Cryan of Mutual Housing of Southwestern Connecticut;
• Gov. Dannel Malloy and former Gov. Jodi Rell;
• Connecticut Housing & Finance Authority for construction and long-term financing;
• National Equity Fund for the sale of tax credits;
• Department of Economics and Community Development for a grant allowing units to be affordable;
• Funders including the Local Initiative Support Corporation, United Way and Fairfield County Community Foundation;
• Building Committee members Harold Parmelee and Lew Marino;
• Architect Evans & Contadino and builder Haynes Construction;
• Ed Hyde and Don Marquardt, who offered legal expertise;
• Treasurer Frank Rowella and Secretary Joan Starr;
• David Graybill and Judy Zucker, who rallied the religious community;
• Former Selectman Richard Creeth, liaison to the Board of Selectmen;
• Ned Greene who came up with the name Wilton Commons;
• Ed Raposa who identified the land Wilton Commons is built on;
• The Decorating Committee of Courtney Kleeman, Judy Mabley and Marilyn Hamilton;
• Webmaster Phil Richards;
• Wilton Commons board members Inta Adams, Betty Jo Corridon, Frank Mabley and Del Overby;
• Past and present legislators Toni Boucher, Gail Lavielle, John Hetherington, Tom O’Dea and Peggy Reeves;
• First Selectman Bill Brennan and the Board of Selectmen;
• Buck Griswold, Ken Dartley, Linda Swayze and the late Bob Garland.
Other speakers included Evonne Klein, state commissioner of housing; Mr. Brennan; Ms. Boucher; Jennifer Chadwick, chair of the MHA board of directors; and E. Bulkeley (Buck) Griswold. Rounding out the program were David Graybill, who offered the invocation and Lisa Chubinsky who sang the national anthem.
Mr. Griswold recalled spearheading the effort to raise $2 million in private money to support the project.
“We went to 250 families and raised the money,” he said. That was in 2007-08, he said. By 2011-12, 96% of the gifts were still in place.
Still, the committee was shy on private funding and Mr. Griswold went to one family and asked if they could help.
“They gave over $250,000 to make it happen,” he said, adding that in the fall, plaques will be hung honoring those who gave $20,000 or more.
Instead of being publicly recognized, “That family said they’d like to honor a couple that has been very generous — with the Kiwanis, land trust, church and Wilton Commons,” Mr. Griswold said. To accommodate that wish, Mr. Griswold said, Wilton Commons “will name and dedicate the first floor in honor of Frank and Judy Mabley.”
No one was more surprised than the Mableys.
“I looked around the room and there’s no one who doesn’t deserve it,” Ms. Mabley said of the honor.
“I’m honored and blown away,” Mr. Mabley said. The couple have lived in Wilton since 1974 and their children went to Wilton schools. In fact, they were supposed to visit their children in Massachusetts on Saturday, but Mr. Griswold insisted they needed to be at Wilton Commons, although he did not tell them why.
While the announcement may have been a surprise, it was a welcome one.
The Rev. Shannon White is pastor of Wilton Presbyterian Church where the Mableys are active.
“They are salt-of-the-earth people who have given to so many people without the desire of recognition,” she said. “They are a shining example of volunteerism. They sing in the choir, Frank is church treasurer and does hours of free service. Judy is on the worship committee. Without people like them congregations wouldn’t be able to function.”
In addition to being a member of the Wilton Family Y, Mr. Mabley is also on the Y’s board of directors and financial assistance committee. His is also the Kiwanis Club treasurer.
“Frank is the kind of guy that loves behind-the-scenes work,” Mr. Griswold said. “In my mind he’s sort of a Run Silent, Run Deep kind of person. He’s just totally reliable.”
For Wilton Commons, Mr. Griswold said, “He oversaw every check and every pledge from 2005 until yesterday and will continue.”
The $10-million cost to build Phase I of Wilton Commons was achieved through $2.6 million from the National Equity Fund, $2.1 million from the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA), $3.2 million secured by the state Department of Economic and Community Development and more than $2 million in private money. State funding consists of low-income housing tax credits, low-cost mortgage loans and grants.
Wilton Commons Inc. has an 85-year lease agreement with the town of Wilton, at $1 per year, for the 4.8 acres of land on which it is built, a commitment valued at over $2 million.