Medical office plan gains approval

A rendering of the proposed medical office building to be built on Parcel C in downtown Naugatuck. –LUKE MARSHALL
A rendering of the proposed medical office building to be built on Parcel C in downtown Naugatuck. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — After months of back and forth, the Zoning Commission last week narrowly approved plans for a proposed medical center on Parcel C.

The commission voted 3-2 June 15 to grant a special permit for the 30,000-square-foot medical building.

“I think this is absolutely wonderful news. It took a long time, but I am very happy we are at this point now. I appreciate and I respect all the zoning commissioners views, but I am very happy the vote went the way it did,” Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Ron Pugliese said following the vote.

Developers Rob Oris and John Lombard, working under the name Heritage Downtown, LLC, signed a contract with the borough last fall to buy Parcel C, the vacant lot at the corner of Maple and Water streets, for $150,000. They have proposed building a three-story, 30,000-square-foot medical building with a bank and a second 5,000-square-foot building for a restaurant or retail on the site. St Mary’s Hospital has committed to taking up much of the medical office building.

Oris and Lombard first presented plans for the medial center to the commission in March. Since then, the commission and developers have been going back and forth on the materials planned for the building.

Oris and Lombard had originally planned to use stucco on all of the exterior of the building. Commission members expressed concerns that the stucco material wouldn’t fit with the historic buildings in downtown Naugatuck, and asked that the building be made from brick.

Lombard said constructing the entire building out of brick would make it too expensive for any tenant.

“You can’t price yourself out of the potential to bring a tenant in. We can put a lot of nice looking buildings up, but if they remain empty, we’ve got that already,” Lombard said. “Empty buildings don’t serve the city. I can build a lot of space, but if it remains empty it doesn’t do anyone any good.”

The plan approved last week has a brick façade on the first floor and a mixture of red and tan Dryvit, a stucco-based material, on the second and third floors.

Zoning Commission Chairman William Stopper and commissioner Rick Cool voted against the plan due to concerns on the appearance and how long the building would last.

“My issue is the durability of the materials,” Cool said.

Cool and Stopper were specifically concerned with the exterior insulation and finishing system (EIFS) and the Dryvit.

“This is the fourth public hearing we have had regarding this project and at each one of them there were comments about Dryvit not being used any place in the area,” Stopper said.

Lombard pointed out that the newly-opened CVS he constructed in Prospect cost $143 a square foot to build. The medical center will cost approximately $200 a square foot, or about $7 million, he said.

“We’re looking at a $7 million investment. That’s not cheap, that’s not junk, and that’s not going to fall apart in two or three years,” Lombard said.

The majority of those who spoke during the hearing did so in favor of the new plan.

Naugatuck resident Wendy Murphy, who is treasurer of the Naugatuck Historical Society, called the new plan a “great compromise.”

“I have been giving architectural walking tours in Naugatuck for the last six years. It would be wonderful to walk past Parcel C and not talk about our mistakes. It would be wonderful to have something nice to talk about as we walk through that area,” Murphy said. “We have empty historical buildings. Let’s worry about those. If we have somebody who wants to build on our empty space, let’s let them build.”

Deputy Mayor Robert Neth pointed out that there are buildings in Greenwich that use Dryvit. Aria, the wedding banquet facility in Prospect, is also constructed of Dryvit, he added.

“This is a project that is absolutely needed in the Borough if Naugatuck. We’ve been talking about building on this property for 20 plus years. I think we are afraid of the word Dryvit for whatever reason. I have no idea. Take a look at the Ion Bank down here, that’s a Dryvit facility,” Neth said. “Dryvit is not a bad word. Dryvit is a material that’s used to make things nice. These people here are going to build a beautiful building and, if it is maintained properly, it will always look new.”

In addition to approving the plan, the Zoning Commission unanimously approved a variance that would allow the building to be 65 feet tall. Current zoning regulations allow the maximum height for a building to be 60 feet.

Lombard said construction will start soon after the sale of the property is closed.

“Development is market driven. Our concern is holding onto our tenant and delivering for our tenant. We want to deliver a product Naugatuck is going to be happy with,” Lombard said. “If we can convert that half-brick into a full brick within our budget, we will. We want to deliver what they expect.”