Borough eyes General DataComm property

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The borough is looking into buying the General DataComm property to aid with redeveloping downtown. -RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — The borough is looking into the possibility of buying of the General DataComm property, which officials consider a key component to downtown revitalization.

“The GDC property comprises over 10 acres of the very heart and soul of downtown Naugatuck,” Naugatuck Mayor Robert Mezzo wrote in blog post detailing the plan.

On Monday the Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation unanimously supported a motion to recommend the borough buy the land, located at 6 Rubber Ave. According to Mezzo’s blog, officials at General DataComm have been contacted and are amenable to discussing the possibility of selling the parcels and remaining tenants in the building.

The property was the focal point of the first phase of the Renaissance Place project, a $710 million downtown revitalization proposal lead by developer Alexius Conroy. The property, which consists of two parcels of land known as parcel A and parcel B, was to be the site of multi-use development of retail, residential, and commercial entities.

Conroy could not successfully negotiate the purchase of the site. In May the borough’s contract expired with Conroy. The borough severed ties with Renaissance Place last month, leaving the borough to pursue its own options for downtown revitalization.

“While there is disappointment that Renaissance Place did not come to fruition, the borough’s acquisition of the GDC property is a game-changer for the future of Naugatuck’s urban core,” Mezzo wrote.

The borough currently owns Parcel C along Maple Street, the Naugatuck Train Station, and the municipal parking lot between Church Street and Old Firehouse Road. If the borough acquires of the General DataComm property, it would own over 15 acres of land it can use to shape the downtown area, Mezzo wrote.

The site includes a 400,000-sqaure-foot building and, according to land records, it is appraised at approximately $8 million. The price tag will most likely include remediation work as well.

Before the property belonged to General DataComm, it was the home of the Uniroyal Rubber Factory.

“While the ‘Rubber Shop’ employed generations of Naugatuck residents including my grandparents, its departure left the effects of over a hundred years of industrial manufacturing on its former site,” Mezzo wrote.

In 2010, Manafort Brothers, Inc., the contractors for the borough, began environmental remediation of Parcel C. They found brick, charcoal and ash buried deep under the property.

Mezzo feels it would be wiser for the borough to buy the property rather than waiting for an individual investor to buy it. He pointed out that, since the property was not in ideal condition, it might not attract any businesses.

“In essence, the property will likely never redevelop to any productive use without the borough’s involvement,” Mezzo wrote.

Mezzo wrote that owning the property would put the borough in control of its own destiny as far as downtown development is concerned. The only way the borough could have direction in the shape of downtown without buying the land would be through zoning regulations.

“I think the lack of control could lead to development that has no cohesion with the rest of our downtown. In successful downtowns certain businesses and community activities compliment each other. I don’t think moving one box from one part of town to another will add a lot of value to downtown,” Mezzo said.

Purchasing the property allows the borough to clean it up and sell it only to companies they believe have the same interests in downtown development as they do, Mezzo wrote.

The borough also has to be careful with how it goes through with this purchase.

Mezzo explained if Naugatuck buys it outright the property will be defined as a brownfield under the Connecticut Transfer Act. According to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, a brownfield is a property that contains pollutants in the buildings, soil, or groundwater, and would require remediation before any construction or expansion was to take place.

The Board of Mayor and Burgesses is looking into passing a resolution authorizing the taking of the property through eminent domain. Mezzo explained that, while the borough has no intention of actually taking the property through eminent domain, the resolution would exempt the borough from the Transfer Act. The board is scheduled to discuss the matter in executive session during a special meeting Monday night and could also take up the issue in public session.