NAUGATUCK — About a month after borough officials rejected changes to the plan for Parcel C, the developers behind the project have put forth another design for a proposed building on the site.
Developers Rob Oris and John Lombard, working under the name Heritage Downtown, LLC, are now proposing to build a 27,700-square-foot building that will have a two-story medical office and five single-story retail spaces. The plan also calls for a 5,000-square-foot building on the vacant parcel at the corner of Water and Maple streets.
This design is the third version of the plan they have submitted.
The Zoning Commission last week scheduled a special public hearing on the proposed plan for 6 p.m. May 30 at Town Hall.
The original design called for a nearly 30,000-square-foot, three-story medical office building with St. Mary’s Hospital as the main tenant and a 5,000-square-foot building. This plan received approvals from borough officials.
In late March, the borough closed on the sale of the land to Lombard and Oris, who bought it for $150,000.
In April, citing the fact that St. Mary’s had been acquired by Trinity Health Care and the uncertain future of health care in the country, Oris and Lombard proposed changes. They proposed a 15,000-square-foot single-story medical building and a 24,000-square-foot three-story building that would have retail on the bottom floor with apartments on the two upper floors. The Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors unanimously rejected this proposal.
The new design seeks to comprise between the developers’ needs and the expectations of the borough.
“It works for the tenant. It also makes the site better,” said attorney Kevin McSherry, who represents Heritage Downtown and spoke for the developers at the Zoning Commission’s meeting on May 17. “When you go past the building on Maple Street you aren’t going to see a parking lot. You are going to see a building.”
McSherry compared the proposed design to Farmington Avenue in West Hartford, which has a “very strong business presence.”
“I think that presence alone is very significant and that’s the approach we wanted to take,” McSherry said.
The medical center, which would sit at the corner of Water and Maple streets, would be about 10,300 square feet on the first floor and 6,150 feet on the second floor, according to the plan. The five proposed retail spaces would run along Maple Street and would be between 2,150 and 2,400 square feet.
The last two retail spaces farthest from the medical center would have a tall roof over the top of them to give the illusion of matching in height to the medical center.
Although it was not what they originally approved, most of the members of the Zoning Commission felt the building would be a nice addition to downtown.
“I like it. I think it would look great down there. I think this would be a plus for the town,” commissioner Caroline Hennessey said. “I think it is a step forward and we have to move forward.”
NEDC Board of Directors Chairman Rebecca Zandvliet told the commission that while the new proposed building isn’t exactly what the NEDC had originally envisioned, it’s better than what is currently on the table.
“[The NEDC’s] concept was to have a nice, big, tall, pretty building to come into town. That was what we worked for and what we wanted to happen,” Zandvliet said. “I think it is an attractive building. It is not what I thought would be there. But do I think it is a terrible looking building that is going to be a detriment to a big hole in the ground? I really don’t.”
On Monday, the NEDC board approved a motion, 7-5, during its meeting saying it would support the plan with an additional second floor added to the portion of the building shown as a single story.
Zoning Commission Chairman William Stopper and commissioner Rick Cool, who both voted against the original plan for the development, voiced concerns about the changes at last week’s meeting.
“When we approved this, and Bill and I denied this, you guys blasted us and laid into us,” Cool said. “And now you are coming back and saying St. Mary’s is changing.”
Even though the square feet of the project remained almost the same, Stopper felt the building changing from three stories to two stories is a major alteration.
Commissioner April Slauson recommended the commission stop bringing up arguments from the past and move forward by approving the plans.
“We want development downtown. We want to finalize it. So, we can’t make this difficult for every person that comes through the door,” Slauson said.