Borough, developer ink contract

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Mayor Robert Mezzo, center, signs a contract that will allow for development of Parcel C in downtown Naugatuck Sept. 3 at his office in Town Hall. With him are developer Rob Oris, left, a Naugatuck native who wants to build a medical office complex and restaurant at the vacant site, and Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Ron Pugliese.-REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN
Mayor Robert Mezzo, center, signs a contract that will allow for development of Parcel C in downtown Naugatuck Sept. 3 at his office in Town Hall. With him are developer Rob Oris, left, a Naugatuck native who wants to build a medical office complex and restaurant at the vacant site, and Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Ron Pugliese.-REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

NAUGATUCK — After lying vacant for more than three decades, development will begin soon on land downtown known as Parcel C.

Last Thursday, Mayor Robert Mezzo signed a contract with commercial real estate developer Rob Oris, who will partner with developer John Lombard to put a medical office complex and restaurant on 2.2 acres of former U.S. Rubber Co. and Uniroyal Chemical Co. property at the corner of Maple and Water streets.

“This is a huge step forward and the contract binds the parties and allows the developer to move forward to get land use applications and tenants in order,” Mezzo said. “Everyone, including myself, has been frustrated by the amount of time involved in moving this forward. But there are a lot of complexities involved with redeveloping a former industrial site and it takes time. There has been a lot of hard work that has gone into this from many folks.”

Oris and Lombard plan to build a medical office complex of at least 30,000 square feet that will be anchored by Saint Mary’s Hospital, which announced its intention to be part of the project in December. Additionally, the developers will build a 5,000-square-foot restaurant; they have been negotiating with a restaurateur but were not willing to name the restaurant last week.

The developers will bring design plans before the Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation either at its Sept. 28 meeting or at a special meeting for early October. The corporation needs to approve the plans, which will also be reviewed by the borough’s land use boards.

Development is expected to take about a year to complete.

“Rob (Oris) has had an interest in this type of project in Naugatuck dating back to the late ’90s, and he has a track record of getting things done,” Mezzo said. “He and John Lombard have the wherewithal to see this project to fruition. Concepts are great, but ultimately you need people with the wherewithal and experience to get things done and they have that.”

Oris has been involved in several commercial developments locally and statewide, including the recent development of a Super Wal-Mart in East Windsor and several retail projects near that store. He is also involved in redevelopment of a 5.5-acre commercial and industrial site at 1359 Thomaston Ave. in Waterbury. That project will include a new prototype Cumberland Farms and other commercial developments.

Lombard has been responsible for development of about 1 million square feet of commercial space nationwide, Oris said.

In Naugatuck, the borough and the developers settled on a $150,000 purchase price for the land.

Oris, a Cheshire resident who grew up in Naugatuck, said he and Lombard, who is from Prospect, have a vested interest in seeing good development in the area.

“This was an opportunity for us to do something that was good for our businesses but also something that was good for the community that we grew up in,” Oris said. “I think the people of Naugatuck are tired of hearing that things will happen. They want to see some shovels in the ground and that’s why we decided to focus on Parcel C first. Once that gets going and gets done, it will be a great boon for everyone here.”

Ron Pugliese, president and CEO of the quasi-public NEDC, said development of Parcel C is an important first step in the redevelopment of downtown.

“I think next year is going to be a huge year for Naugatuck because we’re going to have actual development being done on Parcel C, actual development being done at the railroad station (which will be a restaurant) and the possibility of at least something beginning on Parcels A and B,” he said. “This is going to be a long process, but we are getting things going.”