NAUGATUCK — Those who envision a day when the now-dreary downtown business district is booming again received a major boost from a high-ranking government official Friday.
U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman promised to do everything in his power to see that the planned $710 million downtown revitalization project known as Renaissance Place gets the government funding it needs to become a reality.
Lieberman said he credits Naugatuck officials and Renaissance Place’s private arm, the Fairfield-based Conroy Development Co., for sticking with the project through difficult economic times and for dreaming of a better Naugatuck.
“You’re basically saying you’re not going to accept the status quo that’s not working,” Lieberman said.
Though 83 percent, or roughly $590 million worth of developments, will be funded by Conroy’s unnamed private investors, the public investment in the four phases of the plan is expected to total about $120 million.
Phase One would cost about $30 million in public money for parking and other infrastructure improvements, which would unlock about $153 million in private developments.
The investment would bring a return of roughly $4.4 million in annual tax revenue, 1,425 construction jobs and 950 long-term jobs, according to a fiscal impact and market analysis study financed by the developer. Conroy also plans to create most if not all of its own energy.
Those benefits were part of the pitch Mayor Bob Mezzo has been trying to make to federal and state government officials for months. On Friday, he passionately discussed the storied past of Naugatuck’s industrial era.
“This is a town that took great pride in developing [rubber] products for our country during times of war, and a community that is used to working hard and making its own way,” he said. “Although the great community spirit remains, the jobs and tax base are no longer here.”
He said Naugatuck needs a project like Renaissance Place to become more self-sufficient. He said funding would be an investment by the government to ensure Naugatuck doesn’t need to beg for grants.
Since Mezzo, a Democrat, began making his push to get more federal government officials on board in December, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-3rd District) and now Lieberman have pledged their support.