Although Hartford’s once large Ukrainian community has mostly dispersed to the suburbs, it still calls Wethersfield Avenue home. At the northern end of the avenue is St. Michael’s Ukrainian Catholic Church; at the southern end, just north of the Wethersfield town line, is the Ukrainian National Home (UNH), built in 1964.
Some have thought that the UNH, which is a popular meeting space and banquet hall for people of all ethnic backgrounds, would eventually move to the suburbs, too.
But the UNH isn’t moving; it’s expanding.
At last Thursday night’s meeting of the South End Neighborhood Revitalization Zone (NRZ), officials from the UNH unveiled their plan to build a four-story residential/meeting facility adjacent to the organization’s current building.
Joseph Luczka, past president of the UNH, said the idea for the new facility began to take shape when the property north of the UNH was put up for sale. The property, which runs west from Wethersfield Avenue along the northern edge of the UNH and the Columbus Park baseball field, was purchased by the organization last year.
“There was a general feeling that, ‘hey, our parents built this place and it’s up to us to keep it going,” said Luczka. “We need more space for our youth groups and we also wanted a way help our older members remain a part of the community.”
UNH President Walter Kebalo said the group looked at Ukrainian communities in Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia to get ideas for what they might do here in Hartford.
Drawing on this research and their own knowledge of the community, UNH officials developed their plan for the “Ukrainian National Home Adult Living Center (UNHALC).”
The new facility will have a 1,000 square-foot multi-purpose hall on the ground level. Above that will be a parking garage for residents and visitors. The top two floors would be occupied by 24 studio and one-bedroom apartments ranging in size from 550-750 square-feet.
“The proposed apartments combined with our Club will foster a ‘neighborhood within a neighborhood’ The apartments will fill a need of our adult population,” said Kebalo.
Although the new facility is being designed for older members of the Ukrainian community, it will be open to people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds.
The existing building on Wethersfield Avenue on the eastern end of the property will be left intact and rented out to commercial tenants.
Kebalo said the project is still in its conceptual stages and declined to give any figure for its final cost. He did say the UNH hopes to have the facility built within two years.
Kebalo said UNH officials are hoping that the Adult Living Center will provide a solid base of people that will allow the UNH to expand it services.
Luczka noted the Mary Caruso Gables elderly living complex is located just down the street and Rego Realty is planning to build another major elderly housing development just across Wethersfield Avenue from the UNH.