By KAITLYN NAPLES
At its monthly meeting last week, the City Council unanimously approved to waive its “right of first refusal” on a Pine Street property that was left over from the construction of the new Route 72.
Marc Reich, president of the Greater Bristol Realty Corporation, said his non-profit put a bid on this property when the Department of Transportation deemed it “excess property.”
“When the DOT put it out to bid, we were the high bidder, but under the state statutes, the DOT goes back to the city the property is in to give them right of first refusal,” Reich said.
Now that the corporation can purchase the property, Vice President Craig Minor said the property will potentially be used for disabled veteran housing.
The Greater Bristol Realty Corporation (GBRC) has been around for quite some time, Reich said, adding he became involved about seven years ago. It used to operate in conjunction with the Bristol Housing Authority, and is now a non-profit organization that is focused on assisting low- and moderate-income families to achieve first-time home ownership, and it is on its way to achieving that goal in the next few months with plans of new houses on Lillian Place in Bristol.
Several years ago, Reich said, the corporation dis- covered it owned plots of land on Lillian Place, a road that cuts between Bernie Avenue and Lillian Road off of Lake Avenue.
“We found out the GBRC owned property on the east side of Lillian Place, a road that didn’t have any real purpose, and the housing authority owned the property on the west side (of Lillian Place),” Reich said.
The corporation asked the housing authority if it would grant them access to that property, which they agreed to, and then asked the City Council to abandon the road, which they did. This happened about four years ago, Reich said, and the whole process will allow for the corporation to build two or three homes on the property.
“After that, we approached Habitat for Humanity,” which Reich said has never done any projects as far out as Bristol, since they are based in Hartford.
“We struck a partnership with them” where the corporation turns the title of the properties over to Habitat for Humanity, who then builds the houses after joint fundraising, Reich said.
In the next 30 to 60 days, Reich said he is expecting Habitat will be breaking ground on Lillian Place.
One house, he said, will cost between $100,000 to $150,000 and homeowners are chosen based on their income level. The homeowners also must put in a certain amount of hours working on their own home, as well as others.
“They will attend homeownership courses to understand what it means to be a homeowner,” he said, and then Habitat will provide them with a 26-year mortgage with no interest.
“This will help two or three families who cannot afford a home,” Reich said, adding that each home has three-bedrooms.
The families who move into these homes are also not allowed to sell the home without Habitat’s approval.
GBRC is also in the process of turning the title of a property on Marjorie Street over to Habitat with in the next 30 to 90 days.
The corporation already owned the Lillian Place property from years ago, Reich said, and also owned a commercial property on Lake Avenue and has been using those funds to be put towards new properties, like Pine Street.
Now that the city turned down the Pine Street at Evergreen Street property, the GBRC is in the process of talking with Habitat to potentially turn the title over to them so housing for veterans can be built.
“The city has been a great partner to us,” Reich said, adding the city had to modify its zoning regulations during this process. “I believe they see our efforts with Habitat as a means of helping the neighborhoods (that may need a little help).”
Moving forward, Reich said Habitat has been talking to the city about future refurbishing projects in areas like the West End neighborhood, which could include making homes more accessible, attractive, and livable.
“It is a multi-faceted undertaking,” Reich said, adding he corporation is also talking to a variety of property owners who may have excess land to give away.
The GBRC is made up of volunteers who operate the non-profit organization. For more information, visit its website at www.gbrc-homes.org.