NAUGATUCK — The approvals are in, the money is allocated, now it’s just a matter of waiting for the oft-slow process of state government to run its course.
In a nutshell, that’s the update on the planned demolition of Building 25, a former office complex for the U.S. Rubber Co. here that has been abandoned for the better part of 30 years. It has sat vacant waiting for someone to renovate it or simply tear it down.
After several attempts to renovate it stalled, the borough eventually brought in a structural engineer who said the property, located next to Town Hall on Maple Street downtown, cannot be saved. So last month, the Board of Mayor and Burgesses voted to allocate $98,000 to tear it down.
Officials had hoped to knock it down this month, but it appears that might not happen. The borough is awaiting approval from the state’s Office of Historic Preservation, a division of the Office of Economic and Community Development. The borough needs permission since the building is on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Ron Pugliese, CEO of the Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation, said the state office wanted to see yet another study from a structural engineer. Pugliese said that study has been completed and that indeed the engineer deemed it unsavable.
“Even if we had $20 million, we wouldn’t be able to save this building,” he said.
Now, Pugliese is waiting for word from the state to move forward with the demolition process. The bid has been awarded to Cherry Hill Construction of North Branford.
Pugliese said it’s important to tear down the building for many reasons, not just because many consider it an eyesore in downtown. He said every developer who has looked at the abutting property, which Naugatuck hopes to develop soon, wants to know if and when the building is coming down.
Now, Naugatuck has two developers interested in purchasing the abutting Parcel C land tract on which they want to develop a medical office building and a restaurant. They, too, want Building 25 torn down before they begin construction.
For several years, the Naugatuck Historical Society tried to raise money to make that building the home of a future society museum, dedicated in large part to the local rubber industry. The society had a huge sign on the side of the building proclaiming there was more than $600,000 set aside for the project.
Of that money, $500,000 was a promised state grant that Naugatuck never used and most of the rest was promised donations that people said they would give if the project moved forward. Those who did hand over money were offered their money back, historical society members said. But most of the donors told the society to keep it for the general society fund, historical society leaders said.