NAUGATUCK — The next stop for the former Naugatuck train station is shaping up to be a restaurant.
Trumbull resident Umberto Morale, who used to own Tula Restaurant and Lounge in Monroe, has offered the borough $400,000 to buy the building at 195 Water St. He plans to turn it into a restaurant.
“It will fit well into Naugatuck. He’s got a very good following,” said Jay Carlson, chairman of the Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation. “We need more restaurants in Naugatuck. We want to fill up Naugatuck with more stuff to do.”
According to NEDC CEO Ron Pugliese, Morale also plans to spend $500,000 renovating the building for a restaurant.
“One of the things I like about this offer is the purchase price is a fair amount, but the amount he is going to put in for renovations is over $500,000. That’s a $900,000 deal. I think that’s going to be good,” Pugliese said.
The NEDC Board of Directors unanimously voted Monday night to send a positive referral of the proposal to the Board of Mayor and Burgesses. The board is expected review the proposed deal at its meeting March 3. If the board approves it, officials will begin to draw up a contract with Morale.
Any renovations done would have to maintain the historical nature of the building.
“He is also going to have deed restrictions on what he can do to the outside of the building. He can’t disturb the historical integrity of the building,” Carlson said.
According to the website Historic Buildings of Connecticut (historicbuildingsct.com), the building was designed by Henry Bacon, who is best known for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. It was constructed between 1908 and 1910 with the majority of the funding coming from local philanthropist John Howard Whittemore.
The train station closed in the mid-1960s. It served as the home of the now defunct Naugatuck Daily News until the newspaper moved out in 1990. Currently the building houses the Naugatuck Historical Society Museum and the NEDC office.
In addition to the deed restrictions, the borough would also have the right of first refusal on the building. So, if Morale decides to sell the building at any point, the borough would have the first opportunity to buy it back.
Carlson said if Morale purchases the building he will also own the entire parking lot, which is currently used for parking for the Metro-North Waterbury branch line. He said the borough would work with Morale to ensure both his customers and train passengers have parking.
“The last thing we want to do is restrict train travel because we are supposed to be a destination place. We want to promote train travel,” Carlson said.
Borough officials have sought a restaurant for the former train station for a while. Pugliese said Morale’s offer was the first viable one the borough received.
“We only had one other offer. It wasn’t as good as this one. We’ve shown it so many times. So many people love the building,” Pugliese said. “Needless to say I’m very excited.”