NAUGATUCK— The Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation and Conroy Development officials didn’t quite get what they were looking for Monday night when they held a public forum with St. Mary’s Health System regarding their potential construction of an outpatient health facility at Parcel C, the 2.2-acre borough-owned site across from Nardelli’s Grinder Shoppe.
The forum was ostensibly held to determine what types of non-emergency services might be made available at the new facility. St. Mary’s announced in August that it would consider expanding and moving the Health and Wellness Center currently located in Crosspointe Plaza.
Joe Connolly, Chief Marketing Officer at St. Mary’s, said the new facility could possibly incorporate, in addition to a walk-in clinic, diagnostic services, wellness programs, and offices for doctors and specialists.
But rather than getting a sense of the community’s health needs, Conroy’s Mike O’Connor spent about an hour fielding questions he often couldn’t answer.
Many asked about the size and scope of the project—the exact parameters Conroy, the NEDC and St. Mary’s were hoping to determine.
“Exactly what those [new services] are … I don’t want to be predisposed to, because I think it’s important that you as the customer, the end-user, tell the hospital and us—prior to going through a facilities plan—of what your thoughts are,” O’Connor said.
One resident asked about financing and pricing, which also cannot be determined until a plan is drafted.
But Dr. Robert P. Matusz, who owns Naugatuck Podiatry Associates on Meadow Street, took the opportunity the express his concern that practitioners already in the borough might be sold down the river by the development of a brand new, state-of-the-art facility that might eventually outcompete local doctors’ offices.
“[A development] would put practitioners in a pickle,” he said. Some practitioners in the borough have “already invested in the community for 30, 35, 40 years.”
While not openly dissenting, Matusz implored the trio of corporations to bear his concerns in mind as they draft their plans.
O’Conner said he felt the development, a much-needed jolt to the long-stagnant Renaissance Place project, would be beneficial to local business owners and the community at large.
The facility, which O’Conner estimated roughly at five stories high, would create an “ancillary business draw” of at least 23,000 people per year (the number served by the current facility on New Haven Road) throughout the borough’s downtown district—and past local stores and restaurants, many of which were struggling even before the economic recession began.
The expanded facility would likely increase downtown patronage and draw residents from affluent nearby communities like Bethany, Woodbridge, and Cheshire.
In addition, the facility might foster a sort of one-stop medical convenience.
“The idea of consolidation and proximity is good for patients,” said Connolly, the St. Mary’s officer.
“Having this facility in a central downtown area will be advantageous to the community,” O’Connor added.
When prodded on the future of Renaissance Place, which has been forestalled during the recession due to wary banks and investors, O’Connor indicated Conroy was not going to stop at the new medical facility, saying “We would like to be farther along than we are … Parcel B is intended to be a retail and residential component, and we’re moving along with that … I can tell you we’re not here just to build a medical building. We’ve been here a long time, and quite frankly, on the business model, [leaving after the St. Mary’s project] wouldn’t be a good one for us. The rest of the plan is moving forward.”