Waiting on development

Events planned to turn downtown into a destination

The former General DataComm building and adjacent parking lot, known as parcels A and B, at 6 Rubber Ave. in Naugatuck. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — If you build it, they will come. If you host events before it is built, they will still come.

At least that is what Naugatuck officials are hoping when it comes to the former General DataComm building and property downtown.

The borough owns the former General DataComm building and land, known locally as parcels A and B, and has an agreement in place with Benjamin Zitron to develop the land. The plan calls for Zitron’s New Haven-based Sustainable Development Corp. to build a mixed-use, transit-oriented development on the property on Rubber Avenue.

However, those plans have yet to pick up any real steam.

While there is preliminary work taking place on the site, including environmental testing, actual significant development of the property isn’t expected to take place until improvements are made to the Waterbury line of the Metro-North Railroad.

“That kind of spurs on everything else we are trying to do,” Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Ron Pugliese said.

Signal and siding improvements are planned for the Waterbury line to allow more frequent trains in both directions on the single-track line. These upgrades are expected to be finished by 2020.

Borough officials are also pushing for the Naugatuck train station, which is on Water Street, to be moved to the General DataComm site and say the scope of the redevelopment depends on it.

In the meantime, the borough is trying to give downtown and the parcels a new image.

The parcels are now being billed as “the Naugatuck Event Center” and a place to host events, including a car show later this month and a flea market starting in May.

Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said the goal of these events is to draw people into the borough and show off the building.

“First of all, it is going to hopefully generate some significant revenue in the short term. More importantly it will establish the fact this building, and Naugatuck in general, is a destination,” Hess said.

The Connecticut Indoor Custom Car and Motorcycle Show is set for March 25 and 26 in the building.

The show will feature custom and classic cars, race cars, motorcycles and specialty vehicles, along with automotive vendors, club displays, jewelry, clothing and more. Vehicles that will be there include a “Walking Dead” motorcycle, a motorcycle with “Scarface” characters painted on it, a General Lee motorcycle and the “Starsky and Hutch” car.

In addition, exotic cars such as Lamborghinis, Ferraris and a De Tomaso Pantera GT will be on display.

Hess said the event has been advertised in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York.

“We anticipate that we will be drawing a lot of people to Connecticut,” Hess said.

Hess said he is working to bring in other events that will take up even more of the building’s 374,000 square feet, including an animal exhibit and petting zoo with camel and elephant rides, a roller derby event, home shows, motorcycle shows, autoswaps, and laser tag.

Pugliese said these types of events will help bring revenue to the borough and show off what that building is capable of hosting.
“For an exhibition hall-type building it is the largest building of its kind anywhere in New England. We want to get more people in there so word gets out,” Pugliese said.

The parking lot area adjacent to the building will soon begin to see action when Tom Murray reinstates the Peddler’s Market, a flea market.

Murray has held the flea market on and off in the borough since 1981. At its height, the market would draw over 150 vendors, Murray told the Board of Mayor and Burgesses this month.

The board approved an agreement to allow Murray to use the lot on Sundays to host the market. The market is expected to begin in May.

Under the agreement, Murray will pay the borough $800 a month.

Murray said he expects to initially draw about 60 vendors. If the market grows and draws more vendors, Murray said he would be willing to pay more for the use of the lot.

In addition to bringing more revenue to the borough, events like this will hopefully be a boon to local businesses, Hess said.

Hess pointed out that there are eight local restaurants serving food at the upcoming car show.

“These events will promote many local businesses,” Hess said. “They are definitely designed, in part, to bring more people downtown.”