Century-old ex-factory on New Britain’s East Side on track to become apartment complex

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A roughly 250,000-square-foot former General Electric factory on New Britain’s East Side is on track to be converted to nearly 150 apartments.

A Boston developer intends to remodel the five-story building at 321 Ellis St. over the next two years, and the city has agreed to tax incentives to make the plan work.

WinnDevelopment is looking to secure state low-income housing tax credits for the project, and the city this summer amended its redevelopment district master plan. The plan is for a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units.

It won’t be age-restricted, but the city’s housing authority wants to get a large number of seniors housed there.

“This would fill a big need in that part of the city. We’re thinking of senior citizens — we’ve got a list of hundreds of people waiting for senior housing,” Mayor Erin Stewart said.

WinnDevelopment has provided no cost figures, but city officials estimate the project will be in the $50 million to $60 million range. If the state tax credits are approved, WinnDevelopment would buy the property from Ellis Street Holdings LLC and begin a large-scale renovation.

The building is the largest part of a complex that’s on both sides of Ellis Street and connected by three-story enclosed walkway above the road. WinnDevelopment would buy the section south of Ellis, the northern part would remain leased to small businesses and industries.

The complex, built in stages between 1916 and 1936, was once home to Landers, Frary and Clark, one of New Britain’s major employers in its industrial heyday. The company employed as many as 1,000 workers in the late 1930s, and produced an extensive line of irons, cake mixers, heaters and other electric appliances.

The company closed the factory in 1965; General Electric continued manufacturing there for four years before moving operations elsewhere. The building has been used by a collection of small-scale industries since then, and part of it has stayed mostly vacant.

New Britain is giving the company a 20-year phase-in of annual taxes. WinnDevelopment would pay about $50,000 in the first year of operations, and that rate would rise each year to reach $120,000 after 20 years.

WinnDevelopment is in negotiations with the state to renovate 290,000 square feet of space at the former Fairfield Hills psychiatric hospital in Newtown. The company two years ago converted East Haven’s former high school into The Tyler, a 70-unit apartment building for seniors.

WinnDevelopment has done extensive renovations of former mills and factories in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and elsewhere. Stewart said she’s confident the company can get the New Britain project done.

“This type of development is what they’re used to doing,” she said.

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