Shut down due to alleged poor conditions, Norwalk care facility gets fresh start

NORWALK — Six months after a residential care facility was shut down and its residents moved amid accusations of unsafe conditions, the home is reopening under new ownership.

The 26 residents of Carlson Place, located at 17 Nelson Ave., were evacuated from the state-licensed residential care home, and moved to a Westport facility on June 23, according to the Attorney General’s Office.

Residents remained at Westport Rehabilitation Complex until ownership of Carlson Place was transferred and a full renovation was completed on the facility by the new owner, a local physician, Dr. Syed Reza.

Reza was entered in a pre-licensure consent order in July, allowing the residents to move back into the facility once the doctor acquired the proper licensing and completed the renovations.

Following the renovations, which Reza estimated to be around $300,000, the residents moved back into 17 Nelson Ave. on Monday and Tuesday. Nelson Place received its residential care facility license on Nov. 18, five days before residents moved back in, according to the Connecticut licensure database.

“We’re trying to provide more than basic coverage,” Reza said. “We want to enrich their lives, have people to come do art classes or a personal trainer and yoga instructor, just like to enrich their lives in all we can. Most of these people need help living more fulfilling lives.”

Reza became involved in the facility, which he renamed “Nelson Place,” shortly before the home was closed. Nelson Place was formed in May, with Reza as the managing member, according to the state business database.

Recon Millennium Properties, a building development company founded in 1999 by Reza, purchased 17 Nelson Ave. in July for $950,000, according to Norwalk land records.

A physician by trade, Reza also owns and operates multiple buildings in the area. He said he saw Nelson Place as a new challenge.

Reza first became involved in the housing facility when a Carlson Place worker, Joann Bullock, contacted the doctor asking for help earlier this year.

“She worked there and saw the poor conditions and wanted to be involved when she heard the owner wanted to sell,” Reza said. “We could really provide these residents with a place to live, and she was dissatisfied with the food and care and pretty much everything.”

Bullock, who previously worked for Reza as a secretary and had known him for 17 years, is the sole Carlson Place employee retained for the new facility, Reza said.

Some of the main concerns in the reconstruction of the building was bringing the sprinkler system up to code and removing insect-infested furniture, Reza said. All the carpets were removed, and furniture scrapped.

New mattresses, furniture, lighting fixtures and flooring was installed, and a fresh coat of paint added to the walls, Reza said.

However, not all the residents returned to Nelson Place. Of the 26 residents who left the facility in June, only 18 are returning, he said. The facility has a capacity of 25.

The home is considering three applications for new residents and seeking new employees.

Returning resident Mark DiPietro, who previously complained of bedbugs and mistreatment at Carlson Place, said the new facility is “100 percent better.”

“I’m not going to knock Dr. Reza,” DiPietro said. “New toilets, sinks. It smells and looks like a new house. When I got there last night, they fed us 10 pounds of pink salmon. There’s leather couches and heated massage chairs.”

A grand opening was held Tuesday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Mayor Harry Rilling and other local officials.

“I call it as I see it,” DiPietro said. “(Reza) has done over what he needed to do.