BRISTOL – Chrysalis Center Inc. has begun renovation of The Elms, the former St. Vincent DePaul transitional shelter, into housing for homeless veterans.
Based in Hartford, Chrysalis Center is a private, nonprofit organization that provides housing, employment and mental health services to veterans throughout Connecticut.
In recent years, through the formation of the Chrysalis Center Real Estate Corporation, the organization has expanded to include its own housing development, building and ownership single site projects.
It plans to transform The Elms, at 419 West St., into nine one-bedroom apartment units, with the tenants expected to move in by July 4.
“The City Council and I are so happy to see this long-vacant building being transformed into supportive housing for veterans,” said Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu. “With it adjacent to downtown and in close proximity to services, we think this is a great re-purposing of this building and look forward to having it be one more piece of Bristol’s proud history of honoring its veterans.”
St. Vincent DePaul and its predecessor, Bristol Emergency Shelter & Housing Coalition, operated The Elms from 1988 through 2015 as a transitional men’s shelter, Zoppo-Sassu said. St. Vincent DePaul decommissioned the building on Jan. 31, 2016, due to financial difficulties.
Maryellen Shuckerow, chief community relations officer for Chrysalis Center Real Estate Corporation, said “St. Vincent DePaul gifted us the building. There was a reverter clause that if St. Vincent DePaul couldn’t find someone to take over the property it would have reverted back to ownership with the City of Bristol.”
The city had originally purchased The Elms in 1987 for the Bristol Emergency Shelter & Housing Coalition, using an $875,000 state grant. In 2017, when the Board of Finance began looking at transferring the property to Chrysalis Center, then chair Cheryl Thibeault said in the event The Elms reverted to the city’s ownership, the city could be liable to pay back the $875,000 to the state.
Former Mayor Ken Cockayne first reached out to Chrysalis Center, “knowing that we were one of the largest veterans supportive housing providers in the state of Connecticut,” Shuckerow said. “He asked us to take a look at the project, to try to figure it out, and we did. So it never reverted back to the city.”
Shuckerow said the current Zoppo-Sassu administration has also been very helpful with the project, along with the Veterans Strong Community Center, which is housed at City Hall.
The work started last November and it is expected to be finished by June, she said. “We have a partnership with the Bristol Housing Authority, which will do the tenant selection process.”
The property was carved out of a hill and originally just had an old house, Shuckerow said. “When St. Vincent DePaul did transitional living there they added to the structure, which is what you see now. It wasn’t apartments, it was more like common living for transitional men.”
“It was what I call a tired building; it needed a lot of upgrading. We had to gut it,” she said. “They’re putting on the Tyvek now and they’re starting to do the vinyl siding. The new roof is on, so it looks kind of cool.”
When finished, the building will have an elevator; a community room and a fitness room in the basement; a property management office, a case management office, and a meeting room on the first floor; and ample parking for all tenants, she said.
“This is not transitional living,” Shuckerow continued. “These veterans will have their own lease. We have a property manager – Millennium Group of New Britain, they manage other properties for us. Then Chrysalis Center Inc. will provide case management support to the veterans so they can be successful and live long term in the community in their own apartments.”
In addition to The Elms, Chrysalis Center operates eight other veterans programs and housing throughout the state: Phelps Village in Rockville, Cosgrove Commons and Legion Court in Hartford, Victory Gardens in Newington, VA Connect and Patriots Landing in Rocky Hill, Victoria Gardens in Waterford and Woodland Springs in Stafford.
The organization also provides on-site support services to veterans throughout the state in scattered site housing programs.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.