NAUGATUCK — The borough gained a powerful ally in the battle over securing depleting federal funds to help spur the Renaissance Place project.
“I think it’s a really promising project and we want to work for it,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who met with Mayor Bob Mezzo and Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation Chairman Jay Carlson Friday afternoon in Town Hall.
Although Blumenthal spent the earlier part of the day touring areas damaged by recent flooding in the state, his time in Naugatuck was spent solely on the borough’s multi-million downtown revitalization project.
Mezzo and Carlson took about a half hour to bring the freshman senator up to speed on the status of the project, which envisions transforming 60 acres of land along the Naugatuck River into a mixed-use development that will include commercial, residential and retail components.
Throughout the discussion, the topic repeatedly returned to funding, particularly money to pay for the planning and designing of a parking garage.
Mezzo said borough officials have found that the state and fed aren’t enthusiastic when it comes to parking garages.
But, he added, “For us it’s very important to get the job started.”
A parking garage is the first part of phase one of the development and it’s needed for a planned Saint Mary’s medical complex to be built downtown.
As part of the agreement with the Conroy Development Company, Mezzo said the borough is responsible for the garage. He said the garage is a $10 million project and $500,000 is needed for planning and designing the garage.
Blumenthal vowed to work together with the state’s Congressional delegation to develop a strategy to get Naugatuck the funding it needs.
Federal funding is scarce, Blumenthal admitted. Congress is looking to cut spending and rein in the country’s deficit and debt, as it should, he said.
“But,” Blumenthal said, “worth-while projects shouldn’t be abandoned.”
Blumenthal praised the project for its focus on renewable energy and its potential for job and economic growth in the area.
Officials felt if Naugatuck gets the funding needed the impact on job growth would be nearly immediate.
“We have probably the closest thing to a shovel-ready project as you can get,” Carlson said.
According to information on the project’s website-www.naugatuckrenaissanceplace.com-the project is expected to create nearly 11,000 new construction and permanent jobs.
“We need to make cuts in smart ways and we need to support job creation, which this project ultimately does,” Blumenthal said.
Mezzo and Carlson said the borough’s state and federal delegation have always supported the project and the town has been close in the past to securing the necessary funding.
However, those funds have yet come to fruition amid the downtrodden economy.
“It’s a situation of the economy,” Carlson said. “Everybody believes in (the project).”