The Renaissance Place downtown revitalization project is a distant memory, but Naugatuck officials still have dreams of making downtown a better place to live, work and play.
And on Monday, the Naugatuck Economic Development Corp. took what it believes is a major step toward making that dream a reality. The NEDC voted unanimously to recommend that the borough acquire the General DataComm. property at 6 Rubber Ave. Officials would not reveal how much they would offer for the property, saying they are still in negotiations with the owners. Any formal action to purchase the property requires approval from the Board of Mayor and Burgesses.
In a resolution recommending the acquisition, NEDC members said the property, which consists of two land tracts known as Parcels A and B, is “key to the future revitalization of downtown Naugatuck and the redefinition of Naugatuck as a regional center.” To this point, officials have released no plans for reuse of the property.
“By purchasing the GDC property, the borough drastically increases its control over our destiny in downtown Naugatuck,” Mayor Bob Mezzo wrote on his blog Monday. "...While there is disappointment that Renaissance Place did not come to fruition, the borough’s acquisition of the GDC property is a game-changer for the future of Naugatuck’s urban core.”
The GDC property includes a more than 400,000-square-foot building on roughly 10 acres. The listed sale price is $12 million, according to Showcase.com, an industrial and commercial realty site; the property is appraised at $8 million, according to Naugatuck land records. However, the borough is not expected to spend anywhere near either of those amounts, though officials are being mum on the details because of ongoing negotiations.
The GDC property was supposed to be the focal point for the original first phase of the Renaissance Place project, a $710 million downtown revitalization plan. That public and private partnership was supposed to be completed in four phases over several years and was anticipated to bring thousands of construction jobs, hundreds of on-site jobs and millions of dollars in annual net tax revenue. The GDC property was supposed to become home to shopping centers, a movie theater, upscale condominiums, office space and other amenities.
On his blog, Mezzo states that Renaissance Place developer Alexius Conroy made various offers on the downtown property but was never able to strike a deal with GDC, a communications technology company that has operated at 6 Rubber Ave. since the departure of Uniroyal Rubber in the 1980s. Acquisition of that property was crucial to the success of the Renaissance Place project, and without a deal, the project floundered. Conroy tried to reshift his focus to developing other downtown parcels in the first phase, but those plans also fell through.
Finally, last month, after more than five years of planning, the borough and Conroy split ties, agreeing to release each other from their respective obligations as spelled out in a development agreement for Renaissance Place.
Even while Conroy was still involved, borough officials say they were approached by Atlas Partners, LLC, a third-party creditor for GDC. In the fall of 2011, Atlas Partners reached out to Naugatuck officials about a possible deal to buy the property, Mezzo said.
“While conversations initially focused upon the possibility of Conroy Development purchasing the GDC property, they ultimately shifted to the borough as the buyer when a deal could not be reached" (with Conroy), Mezzo’s blog states.
In that blog, Mezzo also discusses the complexities of reuse of the GDC property, including underground contamination from years of industrial use that likely needs to be cleaned before construction can begin.
“It is unlikely the economics of redeveloping the site would work for any private developer, without financial assistance to remediate the property from the public sector,” Mezzo wrote. “In essence, the property will likely never redevelop to any productive use without the borough’s investment.”