NAUGATUCK — The plan to sell the former Naugatuck Train Station to a restaurateur has fallen through.
Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Ron Pugliese said Umberto Morale, who offered to the buy the borough-owned building at 195 Water St., decided on Wednesday not to continue with the purchase.
Morale, who used to own Tula Restaurant and Lounge in Monroe, offered to buy the building earlier this year for $400,000 with the intentions of turning it into a restaurant. According to borough officials, Morale had planned to turn the building into an upscale Italian restaurant and put $500,000 worth of renovations into the building to do so.
The NEDC Board of Directors and the Board of Mayor and Burgesses both backed the deal. Officials had been working on closing the deal the past couple months.
Pugliese said Morale found another restaurant outside of Naugatuck that was in move-in condition and didn’t need renovations.
Morale couldn’t be reached for comment as of this post.
“It’s obviously disappointing,” said Mayor Robert Mezzo about the sale falling through.
Mezzo said the town has already begun working with Tom Hill of Tom Hill Realty & Investment to put the building back on the market.
“We’re still showing the property to other parties. We will continue to attempt to find a buyer or party interested in leasing the property,” Mezzo said.
While he’s disappointed the sale did not go through, Pugliese said, the amount of renovations needed to turn the building into a restaurant would be a hurdle for any potential buyer seeking to do so.
“We always knew how difficult that would be,” Pugliese said. “There is a fair amount of renovations that need to be done. The question is always, ‘how is it going to be paid for.’ We’re not paying for it.”
Pugliese said the building sparked interest with other developers before the borough entered into talks with Morale.
“There is quite a bit of interest in it. It is an incredible building and people have incredible ideas for it,” Pugliese said.
Pugliese said the borough is determined to move forward with selling the former train station.
“We’ll keep working at it and have no intent of stopping working at it,” Pugliese said.
The Naugatuck Historical Society Museum and the NEDC office currently call the former train station home. Both organizations are preparing to move out of the building.
The historical society is currently looking at a storefront on Church Street for the museum, and the NEDC will be moving to an office in the former Ion Insurance Corp. headquarters at 270 Church St. The building was transferred to the Ion Bank Foundation, the nonprofit arm of Ion Bank and its affiliates. The foundation will establish a new community room on the first floor of the building and rent space throughout the rest of the building for a $1 to the Naugatuck YMCA, which will lend space to the United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls.
Pugliese said the NEDC is still moving and wants to secure a spot in the building on Church Street.
“We don’t want to give up the opportunity to have our office there. We could find somebody today or tomorrow or a month from now who will want to purchase the [former train station]. We don’t want to have somebody else take that spot,” Pugliese said.
The move would be temporary for both the NEDC and the museum. As of now both organizations plan to use the Tuttle Building as their permanent home after the Board of Education offices move to the newly-renovated Naugatuck High School later this year.