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Darien Says Welcome Home As Affordable Housing Development Opens

Henry and Donna Kelly, surrounded by local, state and federal officials, prepare to cut the ribbon on the Heights at Darien. Photo Credit: Casey Donahue
Several of the buildings in the Heights at Darien located on Allen O'Neill Drive. Photo Credit: Casey Donahue
One of the kitchens in a Heights at Darien home. Photo Credit: Casey Donahue
The living room of one of the two-bedroom homes at the Heights at Darien. Photo Credit: Casey Donahue
The door to the patio in one of the Heights at Darien affordable housing units. Photo Credit: Casey Donahue

DARIEN, Conn. -- After nearly two years of construction , the Heights at Darien celebrated its opening with a ceremony Tuesday afternoon.

The new development replaces the 53 rental units previously located on Allen O'Neill with 106 affordable housing units. The site now contains several buildings with one- and two-bedroom apartments and townhouses, as well as a Community Building.

"All units are now fully occupied or about to be occupied. We have residents identified for each unit," said John McClutchy of JHM Group, the developer of the project. "And we’re excited about the people moving in, and they’re telling us they’re excited about their new homes.

Among the new residents are Henry and Donna Kelly, who moved to Darien, where their son lives.

"It’s great to be here," said Henry, who turns 88 next week. He lived in the neighborhood 69 years ago, when he was training to be a Naval signalman. "Probably the thing that I took away from here was the generosity and warmth of the people. Every Sunday several homes in this area would invite us to come over for Sunday dinner."

U.S. Rep. Jim Hiimes (D-4th District) said he was happy that the Darien Housing Authority was able to overcome the difficulties of constructing affordable housing projects.

"Everybody here knows the unbelievable challenges we have in Fairfield County with affordable housing. It is almost impossible in this area, certainly, for folks who are middle class and below to find decent affordable housing," Himes said. "That means people are picking homes an hour away and driving in to teach in our schools or work in our firehouses. It means that senior citizens who spent their entire lives on a fixed income can find themselves no longer able to afford to live here. And this is the answer."

Himes added, "Next time someone has a question about affordable housing they will come here and they will say, 'I want this in my town.'"

State Housing Commissioner Evonne Klein, former first selectman in Darien, said she was proud the Board of Selectmen and the RTM approved a $250,000 redevelopment grant to the Darien Housing Authority more than 10 years ago to work on the project. She was also glad for the $4.2 million provided by the state for the project.

Under Gov. Dannel Malloy's administration, affordable housing has become a priority, she said. Klein said that 3,000 units have been constructed since Malloy took office, another 3,500 are under construction, and funding is in place for an additional 8,000 units.

"Today we are on the right path to build a Connecticut where everyone can have a place to call home," Klein said.

"This is a fabulous project," said First Selectman Jayme Stevenson. "I look out and see all these new faces of residents and small children who are going to make their own memories here in this wonderful place. And really I want to say welcome home to all of you."

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