NAUGATUCK — A plan to move the Metro-North train platform to enhance economic development downtown appears to be inching closer to reality.
Up to $35 million is expected to be allocated for the project as part of a larger plan by the state Department of Transportation to improve the Waterbury Branch of Metro-North Railroad, borough officials said.
“Nothing has been signed, but we have all kinds of assurances from the transportation department that it will happen,” said Ron Pugliese, president and CEO of the Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation. “This would be a huge, huge move for us as it enhances the viability of a project that we’re so excited about.”
That project is the planned mixed-use development on parcels A and B that stretches along Old Firehouse Road. The plan, proposed by developer Ben Zitron of the New Haven-based Sustainable Development Corp., calls for 100,000 square feet to 150,000 square feet of commercial and/or retail development and between 250 and 350 residential units on the two parcels. The parcels include the former General DataComm world headquarters building at 6 Rubber Ave. and the abutting parking lot.
The borough has signed a contract with Zitron that calls for him to buy the 320,000-square-foot building and 7-acre parking lot for $4 million. He is expected to take ownership on June 30, 2017.
The deal is contingent upon the state moving the train platform from 195 Water St. to Parcel B because Zitron wants to bring riders to the center of his development.
Naugatuck is waiting on Zitron to officially submit a development plan. Once that happens, Naugatuck will begin working with the state Department of Environmental Protection to determine what kind of remediation is necessary before construction can begin.
Naugatuck has about $975,000 in grants to pay for part of the remediation, but the final price has not been determined, officials said. The borough is responsible for the cleanup, per its contract with Zitron.
Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said the borough is on schedule in completing its obligations for the deal with Zitron.
Hess said he has been assured by state officials that the DOT is working on engineering designs to complete the train platform relocation.
Additionally, he said, the larger plan that the DOT has to improve rail service along the Waterbury Branch of Metro-North Railroad could bring more commuters into Naugatuck and provide residents with better transportation options.
DOT Commissioner James Redeker told regional leaders during an economic forum last month that the department has allocated all of the funding necessary to install signals on the line and install passing sidings and Positive Train Control. That project is scheduled to be completed in 2018.