Developer discusses plans for former school

The former Prospect Street School in Naugatuck. –RA ARCHIVE
The former Prospect Street School in Naugatuck. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — The Zoning Commission last week got its first look at a proposal to redevelop the former Prospect Street School.

The borough has agreed to sell the former school at 100 Prospect St. to Southington-based Format LLC for $300,000. The developer behind Format LLC is Mat Florian.

Florian, who is seeking a special permit to begin the work, presented his plans for the building to the commission during a public hearing May 18.

Florian plans to redevelop the school into a mixed-use development with commercial space on the first floor and possibly apartments on the second floor. The majority of the first floor will be taken up by a fitness center, he said.

Florian is seeking the flexibility to construct 18 to 20 apartments in the building in order to make the project financially viable, but is hopeful that he can fill the building entirely with businesses.

“In a perfect world the whole building will be health and wellness and a school-type use, whether it is karate classes or a driving school. So we really do need that ability to make some of the apartments,” Florian said. “It is kind of a safety net so we don’t have a failed project.”

The apartments are planned to be either studio or one-bedroom apartments, and would be between 400 and 600 square feet.

Zoning Commission Chairman William Stopper asked Florian if he was planning on renovating the outside of the building.

“The building, as it exists, doesn’t have any real historic value. I was just curious if you planned to make it more attractive,” Stopper said.

Florian said the changes to the building would be tenant-driven, which means that the tenants that end up going in there would shape how the building looks once it is finished.

“I promise you I will make it more attractive. A lot of times it is like a little work of art.

It could really take a few years to develop something nice,” Florian said.

Residents brought concerns forward about the proposed plans for the school.

Saskia Zezima, whose property is directly behind the former school, said she’s worried that the apartments might be used for Section 8 housing, which provides rental assistance to low-income individuals and families.

“One of the of the concerns we had was that we heard that Naugatuck recently increased its Section 8 apartment capability and we didn’t know if Section 8 people were going to be going into this apartment. Because that would be a concern for us,” Zezima said.

Attorney Kevin McSherry, who is representing Florian, said there are no current plans to make the apartments Section 8 housing. He pointed out that the apartments would likely be too small since the largest will be one bedroom.

Bill Tripp, whose property is adjacent to the former school, raised concerns about the amount of traffic the project could generate. He said children play in the neighborhood behind the former school.

Engineer Michael Lambert, with the Plantsville-based firm Harry E. Cole and Son, said the plans include building a new driveway off of Prospect Street and a new parking lot. Currently the only entrance and exit to the parking lot is from Acushnet Street behind the building.

The parking lot is proposed to increase in size by 93 parking spots to 137 spots.

McSherry said the proposed additional parking lot and driveway off of Prospect Street would encourage most people to enter and exit onto Prospect Street rather than through the neighborhood.

Zoning Commissioner Caroline Hennessey said she has seen some of the work Florian has done in Southington.

“I am familiar with your buildings and have been in them, and you have done very nice work,” Hennessey said.

The commission continued the public hearing until its June 15 meeting.