If developer Alex Conroy doesn’t begin construction of the $710 million Renaissance Place project by May 2012, when an agreement with the borough expires, then the Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation may not extend the contract, the corporation chairman said Monday.
“If Alex feels he’s going to get a carte blanche extension, well, that’s really not going to happen,” said Jay Carlson during a corporation meeting at Town Hall.
Carlson spoke at length about the vitality the project, stating that the borough had fulfilled its obligations up to this point as they are dictated in a 2007 agreement.
Renaissance Place, which gained public approval in a 2009 referendum, is billed as a long-term downtown renovation plan set to revitalize the borough with a mix-use development of retail and housing.
Noting a Republican-American article published over the weekend, Carlson said Conroy has until May of next year to get a shovel in the ground for the project. If no work beings, then the agreement ends.
Carlson said he didn’t want to speak ill about Conroy — the Fairfield-based developer who has a large financial backing in the project. He said the 2008 economic downturn stalled the plan’s commencement, and Carlson still spoke positively about Conroy as being a supporter of the project.
“I would love nothing more than to see Alex succeed. I like the guy, I like his vision, his ideas, his forethought,” Carlson said. “But on the other hand we need to think of this as a business. Either you get it done or you can’t. If you can’t, well then let’s shake hands and move forward.”
Conroy, however, said in an interview on Tuesday that he still expects to continue with the project.
“We’ve been working in good faith with (the NEDC) for a number of years,” he said. “We’ve had issues in the economy that will slow things down. We’ve had issues come in that haven’t gone according to plan, but I think we’ve been fulfilling our responsibilities.”
This week, the Republican American reported that St. Mary’s Hospital as no firm commitment to build a medical center on Parcel C — a plan often cited as the first major step in Renaissance Place.
The hospital’s president and chief executive officer, Chad Wable, told the newspaper St. Mary’s wants to “find a solution.”
"And if we can't find a solution, we want to be sure we continue to serve the health care needs of the Naugatuck community in some other model, someplace else," Wable told the Rep-Am.
Conroy, however, said he has been working steadily with the hospital on the medical center, and is still in active negotiations with St. Mary’s.
“What he’s probably referring to is the fact that the merger with Waterbury Hospital will have an impact on the building that we’re talking about,” Conroy said, citing the article. “It’s also a facility that will be used by doctors from Waterbury Hospital, and our planning has been focused on St. Mary’s.”
Conroy said the merger could have an effect on the size of the building and the mix use of departments within the facility. Some areas could be more specialized than others in the facility, he said.
“It’s not a bad thing,” Conroy said. “It’s just part of the change."
Carlson told the NEDC on Monday the plan to build a parking garage on Parcel C — one of the stipulations behind the medical center — is still moving forward. But he also said he was hesitant to ask for any more money for that project, or for the borough to seek more grants, unless the NEDC knows for sure the medical center is coming.
“We have the money sitting and waiting for us,” he said, referring to a for the design for the project. “I don’t want to have to ask this board to pull that trigger, and subsequently get the Board of Mayor and Burgess’ approval, until we’re comfortable that we’ve got something coming from Alex.”
He said he plans on seeking a timeline from Conroy as to where the plan will be in the future.
Still, Carlson reiterated, “We are ready to build this downtown.”
“You want to talk about a shovel ready project? We’ve got it,” he said. “We just need somebody with a shovel.”