NAUGATUCK — The decades-long fight to restore Building 25, the only remaining building from the rubber plants that once dominated the borough, is drawing to a close.
“There’s beginning to be some understanding that it is not going to happen without some financial angel coming along,” said Wendy Murphy, president of the Naugatuck Historical Society.
After a meeting last week between Mayor Robert Mezzo and about 30 members of the historical society, the organization is working with the borough on a tentative plan to demolish the Maple Street building, which the borough now owns, but save some parts of it for a museum exhibit.
Fire officials have deemed the building unsafe and the borough is looking to develop the vacant lot next to it, on the corner of Maple and Water Streets, known as Parcel C. Building 25 stands on an area that would be a crucial entry and exit point for a facility on that lot, Mezzo said.
The historical society had been planning to move from the train station on Water Street into the restored building and had raised about $120,000 toward that goal, Murphy said.
“At this point, that is not our plan,” Murphy said. “If someone came in with $2 million and handed it to us tomorrow, yes, our plans would change.”
The group now has its sights on the Tuttle House on Church Street, where the Board of Education is headquartered. The school board will move its offices into Naugatuck High School in 2015, when the extensive school renovation is complete.
The 7,000-square-foot Building 25, which dates back to 1895, has been vacant since 1979. During a tour with fire officials, Murphy said, she found some things worth saving, such as a marble bathroom, some of the glass and woodwork, and bricks from the exterior.
“The skeleton of that building is in very sad shape, but the essence of the soul of the building is still there, and is a viable source for us to pull from,” Murphy said.
Of the money it raised, the historical society still has about $60,000 that can be repurposed toward lead abatement and preservation of pieces of the building, Murphy said.
Restoring the building would cost about $2 million, which the borough and historical society have been trying to raise since the 1990s.
“I don’t think it was unrealistic, but I also thought it was a best-case scenario in terms of what it would really cost to fix that building,” Mezzo said.
Mezzo said he intends to meet with legislators to discuss the status of a $500,000 grant the state gave in the late 1990s to restore Building 25.
Borough officials at one point intended to use the building as incubator space for a medical office complex as part of the Renaissance Place downtown revitalization project. The borough also applied for $1.6 million three years ago from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, but never received a response after federal budget entanglements forced cuts to the agency. The Renaissance Place contract expired last year after five years passed without construction.
Officials have expressed the desire for years to redevelop the train station, which has no deed restrictions, into a commercial facility such as a restaurant. The borough will solicit proposals from developers for the train station, Mezzo said. The Tuttle House, built in 1880, is restricted for park or educational use, and officials said they think the historical society would qualify.