NAUGATUCK — A discussion on the borough’s future was the main course at the Naugatuck Chamber of Commerce’s annual mayoral luncheon last week.
Mayor Robert Mezzo began his address with a focus on downtown development — particularly plans for the General DataComm building on Rubber Avenue and Parcel C at the Water and Maple street.
The borough has entered into development agreements for both sites. The plan for Parcel C calls for a 25,000 to 30,000-sqaure-foot medical office and a stand-alone, 5,000-sqaure-foot retail building.
The developers, Robert Oris of Oris Inc. and John Lombard of Lombard Group LLC, expect to break ground on the project by early summer, Mezzo said.
“It will provide not only added focus in downtown and added people in downtown, but also a sense of morale boost because it’s been a long time coming that we’ve been waiting for that parcel to be developed,” Mezzo said.
The retail piece is expected to be a sit-down restaurant. Mezzo said the developers are currently in discussions with a few entities, but nothing has been finalized on that yet.
“We see that as a new gateway into the borough’s historic downtown,” said Mezzo of the project.
The proposal for the General DataComm building is a mixed-use project that will include apartments for artists along with retail and commercial space.
“It would bring something to this town that we’ve never had before and also be consistent with the transit-oriented piece of having people living, working, and enjoying themselves next to the highway, the river, and more importantly the Metro North line,” Mezzo said.
Joan O’Riordan and her partner, Joseph Migani, of O’Riordan Migani Architects, are the developers behind the project.
“That building right now is under option with a developer who has a track record of putting multi-use properties together on a much smaller scale, but is still very skilled at pulling resources together,” Mezzo said.
The borough’s downtown is not going to change just because of what is going up, but also what is coming down.
Mezzo said the vacant building at 1 South Main St., which has been a constant point of contention for many borough officials, is expected to be demolished in March. This coming summer repair work will also begin on the Whittemore Bridge, he added.
“There’s a lot going on in downtown Naugatuck. It’s fair to say, within the next 12 to 24 months, we’re visually going to see a very different downtown Naugatuck. While that is something we are all very excited about and waiting for … we also want to make sure we treasure the assets we have in downtown. We were blessed to have some very noble philanthropists to build some very beautiful buildings, and I think that’s the foundation for what we need,” Mezzo said.
Mezzo said the borough will work with any developer working in the downtown to make sure the architecture matches and compliments the existing buildings.
“Certainly we need more pedestrian traffic, we need more opportunities for entertainment and dining, and more vehicular traffic, but it all starts with that history that was left to us and I think we should honor that in whatever we build,” Mezzo said.
It’s not just the downtown area that is going to see growth in the near future. Mezzo said borough’s main corridor along New Haven Road is poised for a growth spurt.
Mezzo said many businesses along that road are waiting to see what happens with the former Peter Paul property, which is owned by Hershey.
“I think once you see some activity on that site the New Have Road corridor, which was really primed before the recession to explode, is really going to see a surge in business,” Mezzo said.
To ensure the borough is ready for this influx of businesses and traffic, Cross Street will be widened, Mezzo said.
While the downtown and New Haven Road corridor are getting ready for their growth there has been one area in town that has been steadily busy — the Naugatuck Industrial Park.
“We continue, and have continued throughout the recession, to have a strong, stable industrial park,” Mezzo said. “The biggest problem for our industrial park, from the Naugatuck perspective … we don’t have enough space in there. I think the hardest part for attracting more businesses is finding the right spot for the particular business.”