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Naugatuck Officials Close the Books on Renaissance Place

The four-phase, $710 million downtown revitalization project never came to fruition; Naugatuck will seek new plans for redevelopment.

 

A much-anticipated plan to revitalize downtown Naugatuck through a mix of upscale condos, shopping centers, a movie theater and other amenities will not become reality.

On Monday, Mayor Bob Mezzo announced on his blog the official end of the road for a downtown redevelopment plan known as Renaissance Place, a private and public partnership that would have required Naugatuck to complete infrastructure improvements in return for massive private investment.

The four-phase, $710 million project spanning some 60 acres was supposed to change the face of downtown Naugatuck and would have served as a destination for people of Connecticut and beyond. The first phase alone was projected to bring thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in annual tax revenue to Naugatuck.

“I don’t think there was a person involved who would not have liked to have gotten this project started right after it passed (2-to-1 at referendum) in 2007,” Mezzo said. “Unfortunately, due to some forces beyond our control, it never happened.”

Mezzo announced Monday that the borough and Fairfield-based developer Alexius C. Conroy had reached an agreement that acknowledges the development agreement between the Naugatuck Economic Development Corp. and Conroy has expired. Mezzo's blog states: none of the parties (involved) has any further obligation to the other.

“Unfortunately, the impact of the recession in 2008 dramatically transformed the financial sector of the United States,” Mezzo's blog states. “Progress on Renaissance Place slowed as some investors ceased to exist, while others became extremely cautious operating in a new and uncertain environment. Several scaled-down versions of Renaissance Place were considered to begin the project, but none came to fruition.”

Now, Naugatuck will seek new plans for economic growth downtown. 

The borough will request proposals from developers at some point in the near future to see what the current market will bear. Prior to Monday, Naugatuck could not entertain such proposals because of the development agreement with Conroy, which gave him the exclusive developer status for downtown projects.

Mezzo said concepts that were discussed as part of Renaissance Place – transit oriented, mixed use development that serves as an area where people can “live, work and play” – are still going to be considered for the future of downtown.

One positive, the mayor said, is that the borough is ahead of where it was before Renaissance Place was considered. For example, state-mandated environmental impact studies for a major development project have now been completed. And Parcel C., the 1.2-acre former industrial lot on the corner of Water and Maple streets, is finally clean for the first time and primed for development.

Still, Naugatuck will not look toward big box stores to fill vacant lots and bring in tax revenue. Officials want to build in a manner that will compliment existing downtown businesses and serve as an area where people want to spend an afternoon or evening.

“We will not abandon the core concepts of how we want to redevelop downtown," Mezzo said.

Click here to read the full prepared statement from Mezzo; Joseph “Jay” Carlson, III, Chairperson of the Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation; and Alexius C. Conroy, President of Conroy Development Company and Renaissance Place, LLC.

** See a copy of the termination agreement between Conroy and the borough attached to this article (note this copy is not signed by borough officials, although they have signed another copy). 

 

citizen September 18, 2012 at 12:25 PM
You want work and lower property taxes, but you don't want to attract new business?
Tim September 18, 2012 at 12:39 PM
They need a blue back square type project in this town bring some real money here stop pushing it away. Projects like blue back square are thriving and would be a nice addition to town.
Paul Singley September 18, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Good point. This project was intended to be a place like Blueback Square. However, if you look at the differences - economically and geographically, for starters - between West Hartford and Naugatuck, you'd be astounded. For example, the median HH income in Naugatuck is about $63K, whereas the in West Hartford it's $82K. There are 65,000 people in West Hartford; 32,000 in Naug. And their bordering city is Hartford; ours is Waterbury. Big difference. Again, I saw the similarities between the concept of BB Square and RP. In fact, I wrote a story several years ago at the Rep-Am comparing the two. One of the things I noted was that West Hartford already had a thriving downtown area in West Hartford Center that was a destination for people. So it wasn't a total redefinition of the area, which made it much more feasible. I'm not saying it's not possible in Naugatuck, there are just many more obstacles. On a side note, I know not everybody supported Renaissance Place for various reasons, but I at least give the town credit for trying. Redevelopment of our downtown is necessary, and I hope to see it in my lifetime.
Luis September 18, 2012 at 01:06 PM
Tim you want to know where the real money comes from tax payer pocket. This Town is too small to support such a project. I want the Mercedes but I drive a chevy and eat at McDs. What kind of business you would open there a coffe shop a Deli or another D&D, or another Chinese restaurant. Be real...Citizen you know what attracts business is lower taxes.
Carolyn M. Capozziello September 18, 2012 at 01:22 PM
Imagine what it would look like if they had received enough money to begin digging?? Seems instead of bringing in blue collar big box stores like Walmart (which is dumping a ton of money in their building) we are leaving vacant lots for the dream of a tony little community that will never be supported by Naugatuck people. Please tell me what's wrong with a large Kohls, Target, etc. on the New Haven Road parcel???? Or is there an agreement there somewhere that we will only have Walmart in which to shop? If you build it, they will come..and the tenant will pay a nice chunk of change in city taxes.....
Jaime Corris Hammond September 18, 2012 at 01:42 PM
@Paul, Despite the economic, population and geographic differences between Naugatuck and West Hartford, a "Blue Back Square-esque" development would attract many people from neighboring towns to Naugatuck. Many of us drive to West Hartford, New Haven or other areas to shop at the stores, see the movies, or eat at the restaurants. Downtown Naugatuck has beautiful bones and committed residents and could easily be the jewel of the valley.
HomeBrewIt September 18, 2012 at 01:51 PM
When our town officials say "we" they are clearly not talking about the people living here. I think we need new people in office. "Compliment existing town business" hahahha. Auto parts stores, Dunkin donuts, and dollar stores? Seriously? What do they want to see instead of box stores? Smoke shops, barber shops, and more churches? Nope already saturated with those too... How about target, lowes, starbucks, trader Joe's, petco, restaurants other than friendlys, bars that don't smell like piss and motor oil? How about attracting businesses that have a history of succeeding longer than 6 months? Whoever is currently making development decisions needs to be let go. The future of this town is at stake, this isn't a joke or a time for personal agendas.
Gump September 18, 2012 at 02:12 PM
Jewel of the valley! Wow I'm going to open a koolaid stand downtown with the best Jim Jones blend for you folks to drink. I may also submit a plan for a downtown casino right next to the townhall. I'm sure they'll be my best customers. The only time people come here from neighboring towns is to cause promblems and Rob us.
Bob Mezzo September 18, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Hi Carolyn: There is nothing wrong with box development along New Haven Road. It is actually zoned to accommodate that kind of commercial activity. I think the real issue that is often overlooked is that the Borough does not own the property you are referencing or any other land along New Haven Road. The private sector drives development in this Country. Sites chosen by national retailers are chosen very selectively based on corporate demographic models. Prior to the recession, retailers were more inclined to take risks on sites that were not exact matches. This has not been happening since 2008. Government can not force a private landowner to sell and/or redevelop property. The Borough can not choose one retail chain over the other unless it has site control. Its only control over development is through zoning regulations. Since sites are privately owned, only a landowner could limit competition on a particular property through a restrictive covenant. This happens in shopping plazas and/or strip malls. Box development in downtown districts usually does not compliment existing businesses. The preferred model is to encourage development that generates pedestrian traffic and creates an environment where people visit multiple destinations. Zoning can regulate the size (square footage, height, etc) of structures, but again can not pick and choose a particular business.
Paula Lantieri September 18, 2012 at 02:21 PM
I long for the days when we had nice stores downtown - Breens, Freedmans, Raphaels to shop in and the corner pharmacy to have a cherry coke and talk. I understand that with the passing of Unitroyal - the population has changed but Naugatuck downtown is a a beauty and should be preserved!
Guy Nize September 18, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Jamie has a point. Despite Naugatucks smaller population and lower income average than West Hartford, we are surrounded towns where the average income is quite high (Southbury, Middlebury, etc). If done right, the development could attract those with more expendable income to shop Naugatuck.
SuperDave September 18, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Naugy needs to stop trying to plug holes in teh budget by trying to get more money instead of cutting costs. This town hangs on to old thinking and old ways of doing things when it no longer has the income stream that came from manufacturing. There is no way that Naugy will ever be Blue Back Square. There is only one way to fix this town: lower taxes. That means lower spending. But there are still too many folks in positions of power who talk about the Uniroyal days of manufacturing, FORGET IT! Its over. Never coming back. Its tiome to right size the services to what is affordable. Then once taxes are attractive, more small businesses will open.
Brian Toohey September 18, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Has there ever been any consideration to developing an outlet center in town? Something inline with what is in Westbrook or Clinton? It would draw more people into town, create hundreds of jobs to build then to run, and would be another larger tax payer. The old Cadbury lot would be perfect outside of needing to continue the right lane further up the road.
Jimmy Ayash September 18, 2012 at 06:49 PM
Bethel did a great job redoing downtown about twenty years ago and now it attracts art galleries, bakeries and has lots of walkers. Maybe we can redo the sidewalks with pavers for a start to give citizens more of a push to walk downtown. A great little icecream store opened a couple years ago, but it closed because not enough people new about it. It had fresh icecream and was well run. It's a two way street, the town has to do more, but also the citizens have to step up and support local instead of subway and whatever.
Watts September 18, 2012 at 07:09 PM
I have always thought that Naugatuck's worst critics were it's local residents. Look at some of the local businesses that already draw people in from outside the town line. Mountview Liquor and Stogies are two solid examples of this. By having lower overhead, they have extended their selections to carry premium products and at least with Mountview Liquor, has been long recognized as a leader in the state for their selection of beers. Just look at what "A Better Way" has been able to do as a business by taking advantage of low property costs. I always hear blah, blah, blah about taxes, but Naugatuck's low costs of operation should make it a magnet for business minded people with a creative eye for opportunity. And yes, there are a lot of bars that smell like pee, but there are also places like the Old Corner and the downstairs bar at Milestone. This town used to support a local theater downtown and even a club over at Mountview Plaza that featured bands like Sonic Youth. Does every business last forever; of course not, but that does not make it a failure. Local business development should work hand in hand with the city's development plans. All at once coming from the local culture, while simultaneously expanding that culture. I grew up in a post-Uniroyal Naugatuck; the rainbow river, the smell of burnt rubber for years after the industry had left and a seriously depressed local employment. It is time to move beyond that history and that level of apathy.
chris September 18, 2012 at 07:31 PM
you people are funny, you want outlets and squares like West Hartford and Clinton?? Have you taken a look at the element around you lately?? The only places that can flourish in Naug are KFC's and dollar stores.........
Mr. Chips September 18, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Let’s face it, Parcel C is the only area of Down Town Naugatuck that was ever really in play as we watched Renaissance Place rot on the vine. I feel the town needs to formulate and move ahead with its own plans for that property. A park with a community sports facility and outdoor event venue would not take a huge investment and would improve the foot traffic downtown. Imagine two or three “Duck Day” type events each year. It would be easy to plan seasonal events and festivals that draw outside dollars in. Between these events we would have a park for families and friends to gather at.
Paul Singley September 18, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Jaime and Guy: Good points. Thanks for bringing intelligent thought to the comments section, as many have in this thread. We also drive to West Hartford, New Haven and even the outlets in Clinton and Lee, Mass., so I understand that people are willing to drive for a good shopping/eating experience. And to be clear, I'm not saying a project like Blue Back could not be completed in Naugatuck; I was just pointing out that there are more challenges to completing it in Naugatuck at this point. However, it's been done in places with far more issues than Naugatuck, such as Providence, R.I., where Mr. Conroy was instrumental in getting Providence Place off the ground. I have hope for the future, but I think it's going to be at least a few more years before investors start feeling comfortable again. By the same token, I have to imagine construction costs are low at this point, so maybe now wouldn't be a bad idea to invest. But I'm certainly no expert at this point. Anyone know more about this? Thanks
Bob Mezzo September 18, 2012 at 09:33 PM
"Mr. Chips": There is some truth to your statement about Parcel C, but that is primarily due to the fact that it and the Train Station were the only properties in the former development area over which the Borough exercised site control (ownership). A community sports complex (I assume you mean indoor) would be a great addition to downtown, but they are usually constructed by private entities or non-profits with significant corporate sponsorship. They are also costly to maintain and staff, rely significantly on the sale of merchandise and concessions, and almost always have a sound business plan before construction. Many of us who have had children play in such facilities in other towns would love such an addition to Naugatuck. A successful facility, however, requires private investment and operation. "Duck Day"-type events are great also, but require a tremendous amount of work to accomplish, and do not necessarily translate to increased business activity unless a merchant is located directly nearby. Naugatuck's Duck Day is actually a fund-raiser for the Naugatuck Chamber of Commerce, which is run by the fully-staffed Waterbury Regional Chamber. A good portion of the commerce is conducted with non-local vendors who pay a fee for access to the festival. I am not saying that is a bad thing - it is a great event that people enjoy (weather permitting). Unfortunately it does little to raise tax revenue or provide consistent customers to sustain local merchants.
Suzanne Westhaver September 18, 2012 at 09:43 PM
block off the street from where the old Donovan's pharmacy was to where Santos's is and get businesses- local business- no box stores- like music store so we dont' need to go to Watertown or Ansonia for our instrument and music needs, book store, coffee shop, cafes with outdoor seating- this would compliment the work of the arts council and look at its success like this type of area on Church St. in Burlington, VT- bring in local business that appeals to the wants and needs of locals. I don't believe locals want more big box stores or to pay for riverfront condos. This would compliment the already local interests and businesses. Fill the stores that are empty instead of building more stores and consider refacing the ugly town hall to complement the library and local churches on the Green- make it quaint and inviting so people will come down and spend time and money. Just my two cents or however much you raised my taxes when we voted for this revitalization project- also- bike path along river and maybe a business for canoes and kayaks on the river.
lisa mathews September 18, 2012 at 11:21 PM
"Mayor Bob" Maybe you should just send out mailers asking residents what they want to see more of in town? Would they patronize a movie theatre? A sports complex? Would they kayak and canoe on the river if this was available? What are they doing when they leave town? My personal favorite is a sports complex with an ice rink built on the PeterPaul land...."If you build it, they will come"
julia faye peterson September 19, 2012 at 12:16 AM
I completely agree with the last two staements!! Use what we have to offer to its fullest! Not every town has a river rolling through that you can actually kayak on! And every kid I know would go to that old, beat ice rink across from the Waterbury mall, how great to have one here! My mom spent many nights waiting outside of Westbury Music in Watertown, how great to have one right on church street where moms can run around in some stores and spenddddd money! :) we should think of sweet, small downtowns and see what makes them so special and thriving!
Steve September 19, 2012 at 12:32 AM
http://www.norwalkct.org/ sniff around this site, norwalk has it going on. but you wouldn't want to pay there taxes
Menace September 19, 2012 at 01:07 AM
This town is to far upside down. It is the rectum of Connecticut. The town doesn't support it's small businesses. That's why church street is getting more vacant buildings. This town is done. Crime , drugs, empty buildings and land , bad politicians Lol welcome to Waterbury.
Pablo September 19, 2012 at 01:39 AM
Get back to the river. This towns greatest asset is the river and our backs have been turned to it for too long. Build a riverwalk that spans from Polish American Club to Cross Street. I'm not talking about a blacktop bike path. I'm thinking a street wide concourse that is lined with amphitheaters and open spaces that can support the arts; Memorials that honor Naugatuck's tradition of service to our country and community; community garden spaces with benches and chess tables. Couple this with some smart development that allows for riverfront eateries and shops. The recreational foot traffic may be attractive enough for small business investments that spur greater development. Renaissance Place, though not realized, provided a blueprint for downtown development. West Hartford Center was a vibrant downtown before Blue Back came in. That type of homegrown downtown is achievable in Naugatuck.
Vox Populi September 19, 2012 at 05:10 PM
You know what they say about the grass is always greener on the other side.... Well It AIN'T. Everyone has been complaining about cost and crime. But if you look at towns our size range 25,000 - 50,000 ( 26 listed), we are the 6th lowest in cost and 11th lowest in crime. What we score lowest in is Leisure - last, Economy - 23rd and Education - 20th. A development as originally proposed would raise us in two cats and afford us the funds to increase the third. Source is CT Mag town survey 2011 http://www.connecticutmag.com/Connecticut-Magazine/November-2011/Rating-the-Towns-2011-25000-50000/
Jaime Corris Hammond September 19, 2012 at 05:15 PM
This is such a great conversation- can we have a community forum, or the poll that Lisa suggested? Not all of us have given up hope!
Mr. Chips September 19, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Mayor Mezzo, I was writing more or less about an out door venue. Imagine a park that was well maintained and pleasing to look at. This would provide much needed curb appeal for our entire town. This park could have a walking/biking path that connected to the downtown shops, library, churches, train station, and the new river walk. The smaller field there could be used for younger aged children as they play soccer on weekends and such. Perhaps an out door amphitheater for summer concerts and even an out door theater production. This park could also host the Duck Race, Harvest Moon Festival, car shows, and the local All Arts Festival. This would be a return to making our center of town a community center. An indoor complex like the ones that exist In Shelton would be better suited for the old candy factory property on New Haven Road.
Bob Mezzo September 19, 2012 at 09:02 PM
Good thoughts "Mr. Chips": This is a really great discussion and one I hope the community will have at length in the coming weeks. A realistic understanding of economic development theory and concepts is critical to moving the community forward in a positive way. The hardest part of the conversation for many is facing the reality that while a community can create the conditions for certain kinds of development, the private sector controls it. If investors and/or corporate executives can not justify a return, it just does not happen no matter how good of an idea we might think it is. I have heard the sports complex on the Hershey property concept referenced here and in other conversations. The problem is that the asking price for that parcel since Peter Paul closed has been somewhere in the range of seven (7) million to eleven (11) million dollars. That prices many potential buyers who would not be using for commercial/retail use out of the market. There is little incentive for a company the size of Hershey to sell the property at a loss, simply to move it. My understanding is that they have multiple sites in the United States in similar flux. I by no means want to be a naysayer for any particular concept; all ideas are good and deserve discussion. We do, however, need to recognize the challenges and obstacles we face and understand the reality that such decisions are ultimately driven by the market rather than our personal preference.
SILENT WOLF September 20, 2012 at 04:05 PM
I recently took pictures of the naugatuck green area which acn be seen on the patch photo section ... .I was appauled of it's condition . And here we are talking about adventures that in this econmy can't be met.What ever happen to the money aloted for the restoration of building 53. ??? Let's start with fixing what we have , it dosen't take millions to spruce up the center green , getting the trash out of the fountain and get it to operate again . landsaping at the green looks awful , fix that too.nearly half of the trash receptackles are broken . walkway to the memorials are dirty and trashed . suggestioin .... if the town could do this in time for spring of 2013 that would be something accomplished . and also include a few servelance cameras to watch for vandals . to be monitored from the P.D..

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