Permit paves way for work at former school

The former Prospect Street School in Naugatuck. –RA ARCHIVE
The former Prospect Street School in Naugatuck. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — A Southington-based developer has been granted permission to begin the transformation of the former Prospect Street School into a mixed-use development.

The Zoning Commission June 15 unanimously approved a special permit for plans for the property at 100 Prospect St.

The borough has agreed to sell the former school to Southington-based Format LLC for $300,000. The developer behind Format LLC is Mat Florian.

The plans call for the two-story building to be used as a mix of commercial and residential space.

According to Format Property Manager Justin French, the first floor will be mostly taken up by a fitness center. The fitness center will have areas for cardio and areas for strength training, he said. In addition, three former classrooms will serve as exercise rooms for spinning and yoga classes, he said.

According to Florian, the building could also have up to 18 residential apartments. The apartments are planned to be either studio or one-bedroom apartments and would be between 400 and 600 square feet.

Attorney Kevin McSherry, who is representing Format, said there will likely be less apartments than that because Florian would rather have commercial than residential tenants in the building.

“I think our concern was, entering into a project this size, if the commercial wasn’t working we would at least have an opportunity to do some residential,” McSherry said. “The residential would be kept small in size in keeping with the Naugatuck transportation district plans.”

The commission also granted Format a variance to begin work without a set design for the outside of the building.

Florian explained the design of the outside of the building will depend on what tenants moved into it.

In addition, the commission approved a special permit to allow Format to begin removing soil from the property to build a parking lot. According to the permit, the trucks carrying the soil need to exit the property onto Route 68.

Michael Lambert, an engineer with the Plantsville-based firm Harry E. Cole and Son, said a handicapped accessible parking lot needs to be created in order to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“If you ever walked back here is just sort of slopes straight up,” Lambert said. “In order to make it handicap accessible and keep a minimum of 5 percent slope on all other parking spaces, we just need to excavate a lot of material off site. This is just to accommodate the upper parking lot to have access to the building.”

Lambert said about 300 truckloads of dirt need to be moved in order to begin construction on the parking lot.

Pete Zezima, whose home is directly behind the property, raised concerns about how close the excavation of dirt would come to his and his neighbor’s property lines. Although the first phase of the excavation doesn’t abut those properties, the proposed expansion of the parking lot would bring it directly behind the property lines.

“I don’t think it is unreasonable for us four properties there to have some green between this parking lot and our homes,” Zezima said. “We are on a quiet dead-end road and we are used to having the sound of kids. Now we don’t know what’s going to be in that building.”

Florian said he would extend the existing buffer behind the properties from five to 10 feet, create a 20-foot buffer to the eastern edge of the property where there is no buffer, plant arborvitae shrubs along the buffer, and replace the chain link fence between his property and the neighbors’ properties as needed.

The commission decided Florian’s proposal was acceptable and set it as conditions to the special permit.

Florian didn’t have an exact timeframe as to when the project would start.

“We are just talking to a few people from the Naugatuck area that are interested in the fill. So we would like to remove it at the same time we have a place to put it,” Florian said.