Developer offers $4M for downtown land

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A developer wants to spend $4 million on this property in downtown Naugatuck. He plans to build a residential and commercial project on the land. -RA ARCHIVE
A developer wants to spend $4 million on this property in downtown Naugatuck. He plans to build a residential and commercial project on the land. -RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation backed a deal Monday night to sell two downtown parcels to a real estate developer for $4 million.

Benjamin Zitron, who lives in Westchester, N.Y., and is chief executive officer for the New Haven-based Sustainable Development Corp., wants to build a mixed-use development on the land, known locally as parcels A and B.

The NEDC unanimously voted to start drafting a tentative agreement for the sale, which is dependent on millions of dollars of environmental cleanup and approval from the Board of Mayor and Burgesses and land use boards.

“He’s buying it cash out of pocket. No financing. He’s got the money. It’s a real deal,” NEDC Chairman Jay Carlson said.

Parcel A, the former General DataComm building on Rubber Avenue, and Parcel B, the adjacent parking lot on the corner of Old Firehouse Road and Maple Street, are 10 acres combined. The borough owns both parcels.

Carlson said Zitron plans to build a mixed-use development of residential, commercial and retail on the site. Zitron has discussed building between 300 and 400 apartments there, according to Carlson, though he has not given details, yet, on the size and type of the apartments.

Zitron said Monday night he had not had an opportunity to discuss the outcome of the NEDC meeting with borough officials.

“I want to speak with them, and I know there are going to be other meetings coming up, so once those happen, I will be glad to discuss the plan in detail,” he said.

Carlson said the next step for the proposed sale is a review by the Board of Mayor and Burgesses, which meets next Tuesday. As it has in the past, the board is expected to send it to the land use boards for review.

“There is a bunch of zoning approvals and land use approvals that have to happen,” Carlson said. “[Zitron] has to do a site plan. He has to do all the conceptual layouts.”

The agreement calls for Zitron to take ownership of the property on June 30, 2017, after remediation efforts to remove underground contaminants are complete.

“Right now Parcel B is considered clean, even though there’s a bunch of stuff buried there. It’s capped, so technically it is a clean property. Once you tear that cap off, you have to take care of that stuff. So we know there is going to be clean up,” Carlson said.

Carlson estimated the remediation to cost between $1 million and $14 million, depending on what is built on the site. It would require state and federal funds to finish.

The deal would also require the state Department of Transportation to move the train station platform from 195 Water St. to the site of the proposed development between Parcels A and B.

Discussions between the borough and the state DOT are ongoing, and Zitron has been engaged in those, said Edward “Ned” Fitzpatrick, borough attorney.

“Realistically you’re talking about breaking ground probably in 2017. So it’s not going to happen next year, but it will happen the following year,” Carlson said.

The borough bought parcels A and B in December 2012 for $2 million with the intention of finding a developer to build a mixed-use development on the land. Officials granted Joseph Migani, of the Seymour-based O’Riodan Migani Architects, a six-month contract last October to begin developing the General DataComm building only. Migani’s plan for the building, dubbed “Art6,” was to transform it into an artist-driven project that would have included apartments and studios for working artists.

Under the contract, Migani would have ultimately purchased the building for $2 million.

In July, the borough board chose not to extend the contract with Migani.

Carlson said money was a main factor in not extending the contract with Migani. The Art6 project was heavily reliant on state and federal grants and loans.

Carlson said Zitron doesn’t have to secure financing and isn’t looking for state and federal dollars. He added that Zitron has built similar projects around the state.

Carlson said the proposed development can be a boon to the borough. He pointed to plans in place to improve the Waterbury branch line of the Metro North Railroad.

“If we can get the railroads to run on a timely fashion, we’d have a goldmine here. It’s not just going to help Naugatuck. It’s going to help Waterbury, it’s going to help Beacon Falls, it’s going to help everything along the line,” Carlson said. “Can I guarantee it? No. But we’ve been working on it for 15 years at this point. At some point we’ve got to get the right combination of stuff that’s going to work.”

Ron Pugliese, president and CEO of the NEDC, said he’s thrilled to work with Zitron, who he called a wonderful developer.

“This is a great thing for Naugatuck,” he said. “Everything we’ve been working toward is starting to come to fruition downtown, and it’s an exciting time.”

The Republican-American contributed to this article.