NAUGATUCK — Two developers are working to begin the transformation of downtown Naugatuck.
Robert Oris of Oris Inc. and John Lombard of Lombard Group LLC have been granted a 180-day exclusive development agreement by the Board of Mayor and Burgesses to develop Parcel C, a 2.1-acre parcel on the corner of Maple and Water streets that has sat vacant since the 1980s.
Oris, a Naugatuck native who now lives in Cheshire, said he’s interested in developing Parcel C because he wants to give something back to the community he grew up in.
“I still have a lot of roots in Naugatuck. Naugatuck will always be home for me. When I saw Parcel C was available I really wanted to take a shot at it,” Oris said. “I wanted to do something great, something well received in the community I grew up in.”
Oris said the location of Parcel C, directly off of Route 8 and at the center of the borough’s planned downtown revitalization, made it an ideal place to develop.
“It’s a great parcel of land and it’s well located,” Oris said.
Lombard, who grew up in Prospect, said he’s attracted to the project because of his ties to the borough as well.
“I’m a Prospect native, I’m right next door,” Lombard said. “I like Naugatuck and the downtown area. I think it offers a lot of potential.”
The developers are planning to build a two-to-three-story medical facility and a stand-alone, sit-down restaurant on the property.
Oris, who serves on the Cheshire Town Council, has been working for himself as a developer since 1996 and has known Lombard for more than 20 years. Although they have worked on the same projects in the past, this is the first project they have actually partnered on.
According to Oris it made sense for them to come together on this project.
“We compliment each other from a development perspective. We think similarly. We have similar morals and ethics. It made sense for us to partner up on this project,” Oris said.
Lombard, who has worked as a developer for 30 years and has developed locations such as Stop and Shop in Winsted, the Lombard Plaza in Waterbury, and, most recently, the CVS in Oakville, echoed Oris’ comments.
“We’re coming together with some unique talents to bring this site what it deserves. We’re cognoscente of what’s happened in past, and we don’t want to fail here,” Lombard said.
This is not the first time a developer has sought to build on Parcel C.
Developer Alexius Conroy planned to develop the land as part of the Renaissance Place project. The plans did not come to fruition, and the borough severed ties with Conroy in 2012.
“I think we’ve all been waiting for high-quality redevelopment for the better part of a generation,” Naugatuck Mayor Robert Mezzo said. “This is the first significant movement we’ve seen downtown post-recession.”
Oris pointed out between Lombard and himself they have developed residential, commercial, industrial and retail properties.
“We certainly have the background to handle this,” Oris said.
Parcel C used to house factories for the U.S. Rubber Co. The borough plans to tear down the vacant Building 25, which sits on the site and used to be an office complex for the U.S. Rubber Co.
The development agreement is currently being reviewed by lawyers representing the borough and the developers, according to Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation CEO Ron Pugliese. Once the lawyers approve the agreement the developers and the borough will sign it. The 180 days will start counting down from the day it is signed.
Under the agreement, the developers must give the borough a $15,000 deposit, which will go toward the purchase price and is refundable if the option is not exercised.
The developers must also submit to the borough and NEDC a preliminary site plan designating the size, dimensions and location of the proposed uses, preliminary architectural drawings and a timeframe for development within the 180 days.
If everything goes as planned, Oris and Lombard have the option to purchase the parcel from the borough for $150,000.
Though the land is appraised at $231,400, according to Naugatuck land records, $150,000 was the best the borough could get in this market, Pugliese said.
“The important thing right now is to get something on that parcel that will generate taxes and bring people downtown to go to restaurants and support our existing businesses,” he said. “So the sale price is important, but it’s not the most important thing.”
After the agreement is signed the next step is to secure tenants.
Oris said they already have tenants who have expressed interest in the project, but could not go into detail about who they are at this time.
Pugliese said he has had numerous conversations with Oris and Lombard about Parcel C, and both are happy to have the chance to do something in downtown Naugatuck.
“They’re extremely interested and extremely excited about the potential,” Pugliese said.
Oris sees the development of Parcel C as kicking off the borough’s downtown revitalization.
“There is a demand for good quality medical space. This will create what we call the first phase of downtown redevelopment. It is the gateway to the community,” Oris said. “We’re excited about it. What were proposing will look great.”
Mezzo said the development of a medical center will have a positive impact on the borough’s tax base.
“Medical office use generates high value returns in terms of tax dollars,” Mezzo said.
Mezzo said while this project is an important first step in the redevelopment of downtown Naugatuck, it is certainly not the last step. The borough is continuing to look for potential developers for Parcels A and B, which are the borough-owned General DataComm building and the adjacent parking lot.
Oris said he and Lombard have discussed plans for Parcel B and would like to create a downtown that flows together. However, they are currently focused on the task at hand of developing and finding tenants for Parcel C.
“We eat an elephant one bite at a time. Parcel C is the first bite,” Oris said.
Paul Singley contributed to this article.