Vacant school catches investor’s eye

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Vic Buselli of Southbury wants to purchase the former Prospect Street School in Naugatuck for $300,000. The Board of Mayor and Burgesses referred the sale to the Planning Commission for review. –RA ARCHIVE
Vic Buselli of Southbury wants to purchase the former Prospect Street School in Naugatuck for $300,000. The Board of Mayor and Burgesses referred the sale to the Planning Commission for review. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — An investor interested in buying the vacant Prospect Street School and renovating it into a mixed-used development with offices and possibly a health and fitness club is no stranger to these type of building re-use projects.

Vic Buselli of Southbury has a history of building renovation projects dating back nearly 30 years. He said he has taken old buildings that nobody thought could be repurposed and turned them into vibrant facilities that benefitted their respective communities.

“I want to create something to save that building,” he said of the former school here at 100 Prospect St. “We want something that is positive for the borough and beneficial to the neighborhood.”

Naugatuck officials are contemplating whether to approve Buselli’s proposal to buy the vacant building, which the borough owns, for $300,000. The 41,000-square-foot building was built in 1953 and is appraised at $2.2 million. It is listed for $900,000. Naugatuck stopped using it as an educational facility four years ago.

Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation CEO Ron Pugliese said the sale price is not as important as what goes into the building.

Still, local officials believe Buselli’s proposal could be positive for the borough because of the potential to attract jobs, bring people to the community and create tax revenue.

Buselli points to similar projects he has completed in Waterbury as examples of his work. He and a partner bought the former Russell Elementary School from the city more than 25 years ago. He said they turned it into a vibrant office building.

They also bought the former Miller & Peck building in downtown Waterbury. He said they made a longtime taxpayer out of that building and that at one point, there were between 300 and 600 people working there.

Buselli also owns Mar-Vic cleaners on Grand Street in downtown Waterbury. The building was described by a Sunday Republican columnist in 2011 as a “former dungeon-esque sewing room” which “is now big and bright and adjoins a seriously modern dry-cleaning operation that boasts the latest in green technology and high efficiency.”

For his Naugatuck proposal, Buselli had originally planned on what he called luxury apartments for the building. But the board of the Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation had concerns about apartments. So Buselli has agreed to change course and the board says it is willing to sign a deal with him as long as he doesn’t put in living units. He has agreed.

Buselli is part of First Fairfield Associates, which states on its website that it “provides consulting services nationwide for commercial transactional, debt restructure and land use planning matters to developers and companies. First Fairfield also acts as a direct venture capital source and repositioning partner for pre-revenue entrepreneurial start-ups with significant positive social and community impact; and acquires, remediates, develops and operates distressed commercial real estate and corporate properties for its own account.” It has offices in Ridgefield, Boston and Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Buselli is working with the architectural firm Merrell Associates Inc. of Prospect, which has completed re-use projects at Russell School in Waterbury, Croft School in Waterbury and The Shoppes at Whittemore Crossing in Middlebury.

For the Naugatuck project, Buselli said he is sitting down with the owners of a fitness center to see if they can be incorporated into the project and is considering medical offices.

“Right now, we’re exploring all options,” he said.