Officials eye revival of Union City committee

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This building at the corner of North Main, Union and City Hill streets in Union City was falling apart until Bill Gouveia, the Portuguese consul, gave it a facelift. It was a concern of the Union City Revitalization Committee, which has been inactive for about two years but hopes to start holding community cleanups again in the spring when the Naugatuck Pedestrian Greenway is finished. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — After two heavily attended cleanup days, the Union City Revitalization Committee has faded away, remaining inactive for the past two years.

Burgess Mike Ciacciarella, who heads the committee, wants to start it up again this spring. The first phase of the Naugatuck Pedestrian Greenway, connecting downtown to the largely blighted section of the borough, is expected to be complete by then.

“I’m hoping that that helps to spur the revitalization of Union City,” Ciacciarella said. “Maybe it’ll be the first time people will be walking from downtown.”

Spring will also bring the Memorial Day parade, which starts on North Main Street, Ciacciarella said.

Hundreds of volunteers turned out for community cleanups in fall 2009 and spring 2010, picking up trash and planting greenery along North Main Street. Plans were in the works for a Union City Revitalization Zone, which would allow the committee to apply for grants to improve the area.

The committee also set a goal of attracting more businesses to the section of the borough that branches off Route 68, North Main Street and City Hill Street.

Changes in state laws complicated the process of applying for a revitalization zone, which might not even be necessary, Ciacciarella said. Ongoing national economic troubles have also hindered new businesses from opening, and much of North Main Street remains vacant.

“There hasn’t been a big change in the landscape in Union City, so I think we just need to continue with the vision we had two years ago,” Ciacciarella said. “If our economy improves at a local or state level, that’s going to increase the chances of businesses coming to Naugatuck.”

Businesses have come and gone in the past two years, but one dilapidated building has improved. 419 North Main St., which also houses Reynolds Cafe, got a facelift when Bill Gouveia, the Portuguese consul, moved his offices there from Waterbury.

Ciacciarella and Burgess Robert Neth, who lives near City Hill Middle School and is also on the revitalization committee, said the condition of that building was always a major concern because it is one of the first things motorists see when they get off Route 8.

“Would we like to see more improvements?” Neth said. “Absolutely, but you know what? He’s doing something.”

Eugene “Beany” Ferreira, owner of the Old Corner Cafe, said he remembered hordes of enthusiastic residents participating in the cleanups two years ago. His restaurant provided discounted lunches and ice for participants.

Ferreira said he looked forward to more cleanups.

“That would be a great thing to start thinking about for the spring,” he said. “It’s something we would support, that’s for sure.

Ferreira said he was not a member of the revitalization committee, which had about six members, but he used to go to the meetings. He said the committee mostly focused on cleanups, but the neighborhood also needs more parking along North Main Street, especially at his end near Linden Park, which has lots of multifamily houses and few parking lots.

Ciacciarella said he hoped North Main Street would have more of a business feel after the pedestrian connection to downtown is established.

“Revitalization takes a long time,” Ciacciarella said. “You can’t snap a finger and hope that businesses will come just because you’ve created a committee or put the word out.”