Consultants to scrutinize Art6 plan

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(Editor’s note: The story has been updated to reflect a change in the location of a public meeting on the Art6 project. The meeting is April 29 at the Naugatuck Historical Society Museum, 195 Water St.)

An artist’s rendering of what the General DataComm building on Rubber Avenue in Naugatuck could look like after being renovated into a mixed-use facility under the Art6 project. –CONTRIBUTED
An artist’s rendering of what the General DataComm building on Rubber Avenue in Naugatuck could look like after being renovated into a mixed-use facility under the Art6 project. –CONTRIBUTED

NAUGATUCK — The borough will receive an outside opinion on whether the artistic transformation of a former industrial building downtown is a feasible plan.

Artspace, a national nonprofit organization that specializes in artist-led community transformations, will visit Naugatuck next week to gauge the plans for the former General DataComm building at 6 Rubber Ave.

The borough-owned 320,000-square-foot building sits mostly vacant. However, if Joseph Migani and Joan O’Riordan of the Seymour-based O’Riordan Migani Architects have their way, the building will serve as one of the cornerstones of the borough’s revitalized downtown.

Migani and O’Riordan have proposed transforming the building into a community for artists. The project, known as Art6, calls for apartments for artists to live and work on the third and fourth floors, corporate office space on the second floor, and parking and retail space on the first floor

“I’m seeking a perfect ‘field of dreams’ utilization of the building,” Migani said.

The Zoning Commission has approved Art6 to be part of a special development district downtown. Migani and O’Riordan have also applied for state grants to help get the project moving.

The borough received a $27,500 grant from the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation last month. The grant will pay for Artspace consultants to come to Naugatuck and assess the feasibility of the project.

Artspace will consult with Migani, O’Riordan and borough officials on the project.

The organization is more than just a consulting firm, Migani said. It has built projects similar to Art6.

“They’ve done 35 of their own projects that are artist collaboratives,” Migani said. “As all consultants are, they’re like preachers; they just want to spread the word.”

According to Artspace’s website, its mission is to help artists and communities.

“Our goal is to help identify solutions that not only make their vision possible but also make their communities safer, more attractive, and more livable,” Artspace said on its website.

Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Ron Pugliese said the organization’s visit is an important step for the project and downtown.

“They’re going to come in and give us ideas about how to attract artists, how to build for artists and what the market is like in the area,” Pugliese said. “It shows the momentum we are building for this project and throughout the town.”

Consultants from Artspace will spend two days in the borough to meet with developers, local and state officials, local and regional artists and arts organizations and economic development officials. Consultants will begin on April 29 with a tour of the General DataComm building and downtown.

“They’re outsiders so they will read it as designers would. It will give them a raw eye to see it with objectivity,” Migani said.

The first day will also include a focus group with local emerging artists, Migani said.

Residents will also have a chance to hear from Artspace and have their questions answered as well, Migani said. A public meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. April 29 at the Naugatuck Historical Society Museum, 195 Water St.

Pugliese urged members of the public to attend the meeting.

“I encourage any resident who has interest in the project or questions to come and listen to what we have to say and what the consultants have to say. More importantly, I want to hear what the residents have to say,” Pugliese said.

On April 30, consultants will meet with state officials and a workshop will be held with local art institute leaders.

Artspace consultants will give a brief presentation on their impressions of the project after the two-day visit. Within a month of the visit, Migani said, Artspace will issue a more detailed report on the project. The report will include an overall opinion of the project and suggestions for moving forward.

“The conclusion of the report will either be ‘this is the dumbest idea ever,’ ‘this will be a slam dunk,’ or, what I think it will be, ‘this will work if you do these things,’” Migani said.

Migani said the report will ultimately help shape the project, which is being undertaken one step at a time.

“You only get one shot at it. The construction is costly, but you are dealing with something that will last years,” Migani said.