High hopes for downtown deal

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 — Two years ago, borough officials voted to purchase a sprawling former industrial warehouse downtown for $2 million in hopes of having a say over how it would be reused.

On Tuesday, their hopes came closer to being realized as they now have a plan for redevelopment they are excited about.

The Board of Mayor and Burgesses voted 9-0 Tuesday night at Town Hall to enter into an agreement with a developer who wants to spend $4 million on the abandoned, 320,000-square-foot former General DataComm, or GDC, building and its abutting 7-acre parking lot.

“I think it’s another significant step toward that ultimate goal of redeveloping the property,” Mayor Robert Mezzo said. “There are a lot of contingencies in the deal, there are a lot of obligations that both parties have, but there has been a tremendous amount of work that has gone into getting it to a stage of signing a contract, and that work will bear fruit moving forward.”

The plan calls for developer Benjamin Zitron of New Haven-based Sustainable Development Corp. to build 100,000 square feet to 150,000 square feet of commercial and/or retail space and between 250 and 350 residential units on parcels A and B. Parcel A is the former GDC building, while parcel B is the abutting parking lot. The address is 6 Rubber Ave., but the crux of the land is located on Old Firehouse Road.

The price can be adjusted based upon the amount of commercial space and residential units that are approved by local land use boards and commissions, according to the contract.

The pact also calls for relocating the train station from its current location at 195 Water St. to the center of the development. The goal is to bring riders downtown and bring more convenience to those living in Zitron’s development. The borough, the state Department of Transportation and Zitron have been in ongoing discussions regarding that move.

After Zitron submits an initial development plan, the borough will work with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to determine what kind of environmental remediation is required to move the project forward. Currently, the borough has $975,000 in grants to pay for part of the remediation, the final price of which has not yet been calculated.

The property has tremendous potential, Mezzo said.

“It’s right in our inner core — you can’t get more downtown than that property,” he said.

He cited how it is right next to Route 8, has a rail line that state and federal officials are finally paying attention to and looking to upgrade, and has the Naugatuck River, which he called an obvious benefit that has served the borough well since its inception.

“So all of the attributes necessary for revitalization are there,” he said. “We just need to remain vigilant and remember to stick to the plan, don’t give in to the easiest solution and to make sure we have a downtown that takes advantage of the rail — that has a mix of residential and entertainment and retail — and that is exactly what this deal represents.”

Burgess Robert Neth said the project has potential to bring excitement to the community.

“I think of course, it’s like anything else — we won’t get energized until the shovel is actually in the ground,” he said. “But it’s a positive, and we need to be more positive as we move forward.”