Auction yields little interest

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NAUGATUCK — It does not appear that anything will be built on the old Peter Paul candy factory property in the near future.

The real estate company selling the property at 889 New Haven Road, or Route 63, for land owner Hershey Corp. held an online auction last week, and local officials don’t believe there were any bona fide offers.

Mayor Robert Mezzo said he spoke last week with Matt O’Hare of C.B. Richard Ellis before the auction, and that O’Hare did not anticipate a lot of action.

“He expressed some frustration that there wasn’t as much interest as Hershey expected,” Mezzo said. “And we haven’t heard anything since the auction, so we don’t think anything changed.”

Jeff Beckman, spokesman for Hersey, said in an email, the auction has closed and the company is following up with the most serious inquiries.

The 36-acre tract has sat vacant since 2007, when Hershey shifted production of Mounds and Almond Joy candies to a new plant in Stuarts Draft, Va.

The candies had previously been made exclusively in Naugatuck for more than 85 years.
Hershey was granted a zone change from industrial to commercial for the land shortly after shuttering the plant in what was then a controversial move.

While Hershey thought it could get more money for a commercial site, several people in the community thought it should remain industrial because it would bring in higher paying manufacturing jobs.

Hershey later tore down the building on the site, believing that it would have a better chance of selling the property.

Mezzo said he believes there are still industrial companies that would like to purchase the property, but said they do not have the type of money Hershey is seeking.

The international candy company, based in Hershey, Pa., said at least $2.2 million was needed to start bidding in the online auction. The latest asking price, however, was $7.4 million.

Ron Pugliese, chief executive officer of the Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation, said he believes many developers and investors may have been turned off by the fact that they’ve been told how much Hershey is asking for the property.

Mezzo shared similar sentiments.

“I have always held the assumption that the expectations Hershey has been seeking in terms of price are grossly exaggerated in the current market,” he said.

On a related note, Mezzo said he is becoming concerned with the appearance of the property, which is overgrown with brush.

“We’ve been mindful that Hershey is trying to market the property, but certain portions are becoming an eyesore,” he said.