NAUGATUCK — Excitement was the word of choice at the Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation’s 11th Annual Meeting.
“Tonight, I’m excited,” said Mayor Robert Mezzo as he addressed a near capacity crowd Nov. 13 at the Naugatuck Historical Society Museum.
What had the Mayor excited was the opportunity to present news on the redevelopment of downtown.
“It’s a long process, but this is the kind of opportunity to present some of the things we’ve talked about for years,” Mezzo said.
The guest speakers for the evening were the developers for Parcel C, the vacant lot at the corner of Maple and Water streets, and Parcel A, the General DataComm building on Rubber Avenue.
Robert Oris of Oris Inc. and John Lombard of Lombard Group LLC were granted an exclusive agreement to develop Parcel C.
The plan for the site is to build a 25,000 to 30,000-sqaure-foot medical office and a stand-alone, 5,000-sqaure-foot retail building on the parcel.
Standing before the audience, Oris said the plan is moving towards becoming reality.
Oris said “a large medical user in the area” has committed to take a “good portion” of the medical building. He said he couldn’t disclose who the medical user is due to a confidentiality agreement and hopes to make an announcement around the first of the year.
However, Oris said, the user is committed to the site.
“We have our anchor,” Oris said. “They are committed to this site and this building will be built.”
Oris said the commitment from the medical facility is enough to begin building the office without any additional leases.
“I will stand here and look you all in the eye and tell you they are committed to this location,” Oris said.
The plan must go through the application and approval process locally. If everything goes as scheduled, Oris said, a shovel will be in the ground in the late spring, early summer next year.
As for the retail building, Oris and Lombard are looking to build a sit-down, family-style restaurant. Oris said they are in discussions for a restaurant on the site, but do not have a commitment. He said the focus has been on securing a medical user to drive the project.
Just down the street from Parcel C is the General DataComm building, known as Parcel A. The borough purchased the industrial building and property for $2 million last year. In October, the borough granted Art 6 LLC exclusive rights to develop the property.
“We are very, very excited about Parcel A,” Joan O’Riordan said.
O’Riordan and her partner, Joseph Migani, of O’Riordan Migani Architects, are the developers behind the project.
O’Riordan explained the plan, which she added is constantly evolving, is to redevelop the building to make it a mixed-use facility while maintaining its historic, industrial nature.
“We’re kind of going to turn that inside out and say this industrial building can now take on a new life,” she said.
The plan calls for parking and retail space on the first floor and corporate office space on the second floor. The third and fourth floors will have about 42 housing units each for artists to live and work, she said.
“We’re looking at drawing new people into the community that can contribute not just to the economic, but also the cultural aspect of life in the community,” O’Riordan said.
The plan also includes spaces for galleries, workshops and performances. O’Riordan said there is a proposal to make a portion of the roof into usable space that will include a community center and walking track.
O’Riordan said a range of funding sources — public and private — for the project have been identified. O’Riordan and Migani are working on a timetable over the next year on applications for funding. She said assuming the funding applications are successful, construction would begin about 18 months later.
“We feel very confident that this project will move forward,” O’Riordan said.
The projects are the first plans to materialize since the contract with developer Alexius Conroy for the Renaissance Place project expired two years ago.
Jay Carlson, chairman of the NEDC Board of Directors, said the time and effort spent on the Renaissance Place project created a vision for downtown. Those years of hard work, he said, didn’t go away when the contract expired and helped lay the foundation for the current plans.
“We’re standing here listening to some very exciting things that I honestly believe really will happen and it’s going to make us a better downtown,” Carlson said.