NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation’s annual meeting was an optimistic affair.
“I’ve never been more optimistic that 2016 is going to be an amazing year for the borough. From our downtown to our commercial quarters to our industrial park to our civic organizations, there is a lot on board for 2016,” said Mayor Robert Mezzo Tuesday night during the annual meeting at Jesse Camille’s Restaurant.
What has officials so hopeful is that it plans for the redevelopment of downtown are starting to come together.
NEDC President and CEO Ron Pugliese said the plans for a medical center and restaurant on Parcel C, the vacant land at the corner of Water and Maple streets, have received approval from the Board of Mayor and Burgesses and are heading to the borough’s land use boards.
In addition, he said, the proposed restaurant at the former train station at 195 Water St. will soon be submitting site plans to the land use boards.
“I am excited about both these projects, and as I always cannot wait for spring every year, I am especially looking forward to spring, when hopefully shovels will be in the ground and The Station will be serving great meals to great crowds,” Pugliese said.
Pugliese added there has been movement on Parcels A and B, the former General DataComm building and adjacent parking lot downtown. He said he could not give any details at the meeting.
“We are still a bit away, but I am confident that when we meet again a year from now, progress on that long-ignored site will have been made,” Pugliese said.
Pugliese said it won’t just be commercial improvement residents of the borough will notice in coming year.
“Late next spring and during the summer, a new bridge on Maple Street that runs over the Naugatuck River and connects east and west in the borough will also be under construction. It may be chaotic at times, but the chaos, in my view will be a beautiful sight. We all deserve to see that progress, it has been too long, and the citizens of Naugatuck deserve it,” Pugliese said.
Although downtown redevelopment may sometimes seem slow, NEDC Chairman Jay Carlson said the NEDC is working against more than three decades of businesses leaving.
“It took 35 years for Naugatuck to disassemble itself. Uniroyal left, Peter Paul left, and many other large industries in town left and the town sort of atrophied,” Carlson said. “The NEDC can’t take something that was 35 years in disappearing and turn it around overnight.”
Mayoral Elect N. Warren “Pete” Hess promised to continue to work with the NEDC towards a better future for the borough.
“The most exciting aspect of this job for me is economic development,” Hess said. “I am totally committed to economic development. I am totally committed to the NEDC; its mission, the way it is set up, the bipartisan nature. We’re all going to work together as a team. We’re all going to row in the same direction. And we are all going to move forward together.”
In addition to looking towards the borough’s future, the NEDC honored one of its members who helped move the borough forward. The NEDC presented the first ever Spirit of the NEDC award to Mezzo.
Pugliese said the NEDC chose to recognize Mezzo because he has been supporter of the NEDC from the beginning and has worked together with the board for many years.
“Not only that, but he has understood the mission of the NEDC and understood the spirit of the NEDC,” Pugliese said.
Pugliese said despite the set-backs and difficulties the borough has had in the past, he’s optimistic about the future of Naugatuck.
“Those of you who know me, know I am upbeat, confident about the future and certain of the positive outcomes on all the projects we are working on. I have no doubt of our eventual success, but also fully aware of the difficulty we will face especially on Parcels A and B; the planning, the approvals, the cost of remediation and the things that will happen that we are not even aware of yet. It sounds tough, and frankly I cannot wait to really get going on a project that will transform Naugatuck,” Pugliese said.