Sun sets on Renaissance Place

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Naugatuck’s contract with developer Alexius Conroy to develop the Renaissance Place project for downtown Naugatuck expired Tuesday. Borough officials are now looking to move forward in a new direction for downtown revitalization. –FILE PHOTO

NAUGATUCK — On Tuesday, the sun finally set on the downtown revitalization project known as Renaissance Place.

The borough entered into an exclusive five-year contract with developer Alexius Conroy to revitalize the borough’s downtown area on May 8, 2007.

The project sought to bring a mixed-use development, including offices, retail, a medical facility, and residential units, to downtown Naugatuck.

“It was anticipated that once built, Renaissance Place would bring $707 million dollars worth of mixed-use, ‘green’ development over the proposed, 15 year life of the project,” Mayor Robert Mezzo and Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation Chair Jay Carlson wrote in a joint post on Mezzo’s blog.

Tuesday, May 8, marked the five-year deadline for the project to begin its construction phase and an end to the agreement that gave Conroy exclusive rights to the project.

“Despite multiple attempts to start the project, Mr. Conroy has been unable to fulfill the vision that he originally proposed and was approved by Naugatuck voters,” Mezzo and Carlson said in the post.

Although the contract has expired, the vision of a revitalized downtown lives on.

“Our current administration, as well as the NEDC, is committed to building a smart growth opportunity in Naugatuck. I can’t tell you when it will happen, but I can tell to those involved want to make it happen,” Carlson said.

Carlson said that the borough and NEDC do not have a defined plan yet for downtown revitalization. However, they do have some guidelines to work within.

“It’s a large plot of land. It all needs to be redeveloped in the same fashion. We don’t want spot growth in Naugatuck. If we wanted that, we could have done it long before Conroy came to town,” Carlson said.

Without going into specific detail, Carlson said that the NEDC’s vision for downtown is a revitalization that compliments the historical nature of the borough’s downtown area and will draw people not only from Naugatuck, but the surrounding towns.

The borough and the NEDC have previously stated that they are not terminating Conroy’s contract due to any negativity. In the post, Mezzo and Carlson wrote that they have enjoyed working with Conroy throughout this process.

“He has done everything he could, but, due to the nature of the economy, he has not been able to move from concepts to actual structures,” Carlson said in a previous interview.

In the blog post, Mezzo and Carlson explain that both the borough and the NEDC feel that it is in the best interest of the town to terminate the contract and move forward from there.

“As a community we need to move forward and explore what other options exist in the marketplace to revitalize Downtown Naugatuck. The exclusivity of the development agreement has prevented us from soliciting and/or entertaining any other proposals not brought forth by Renaissance Place, LLC,” Mezzo and Carlson wrote.

Aside from the economic woes facing the country, the project appeared to have it a snag when Conroy and St. Mary’s Hospital couldn’t agree on the role of the hospital in the project.
The cornerstone of Renaissance Place was going to be a medical center with an adjacent parking garage, located along Maple Street, behind the Whittemore Memorial Library. The plot of land is currently a brownfield site.

Saint Mary’s only wants 15,000 square feet, an amount that reflects the size of its walk-in clinic on New Haven Road combined with other affiliated doctors’ offices throughout the borough. Conroy, however, would have to build a 30,000-square-foot building to justify the parking garage, which the borough hoped to build with state grant funding.

Although the contract with Conroy has expired, the borough is not ready to begin going out for the next bid.

Mezzo said that over the next few weeks the borough and the NEDC will work with the borough’s legal team to make sure the contract is dissolved in a timely manner.

“It’s our goal to resolve any complexity with the agreement in a manner that allows us to refocus on downtown revitalization as soon as possible,” Mezzo said.