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The Future of Renaissance Place a Hot Topic

NEDC Chairman suggests not extending contract with developer of multi-million dollar project if no work is done by next year.

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.”

Margaret Donchin September 29, 2011 at 03:44 PM
The Renaissance Place proposal is a dead deal. Anyone who thinks Conroy is still viable is mistaken. Where is the deal with General Data Com? Where is the deal with Seven Angels Theater? Where is the new housing? Where are the new shops? Where is the River Walk? Where is the Green Energy development? Not a lick of movement on any of these items. Dead. Conroy has not delivered a single thing and it is likely he is just looking to cut his losses and leave the town. I would hope Mr Carlson and his board understand that. Have we really waited five or more years to now settle for moving the St Mary's Wellness center and a few doctors to parcel C? (This is assuming there is even have a deal with St Mary's, which judging by recent news articles appears highly likely.) Parcel C is an important piece of real estate that needs to showcase our community, not belittle it with a few offices and a fee based parking garage. We need to stop being taken as fools and force the developer to act or escort him home. It is about time already. God only knows the taxpayer money we have spent funding this fantasy. We should have something to speak of downtown, not excuses.
Charles Marenghi September 29, 2011 at 04:31 PM
Mr. Carlson, is right. It is time to move on. I really wanted this to happen. Years ago I supported it 100%. I am now at a point where I can say this was once a dream now it is pure fantasy. No investment, No Progess, No Dice.... Next plan please...
brutus September 29, 2011 at 06:07 PM
People need to understand why Renaissance Place has failed. It's not because it was a bad idea or a bad plan. It's because it came about at the worst possible time. Any big project just wasn't going to happen in this economic climate. Let's see how this plays out, if we need to move on, then fine. But let's not just throw our hands up in the air and give up and neglect the economic conditions that have held things back. This town needs something, whether it's Renaissance Place or not.
Mary K September 30, 2011 at 12:17 AM
Chares. I am with you. I supported this with all my heart five long years ago. I am saddened that Conroy has not made even a symbolic commitment to our town, let alone a financial one. Building 25 could have been and still can be a great place to start this project. Let's see what Conroy can do with 25, then let him develop the rest of the project when he secures financing or project backers. We all thought Conroy was going to invest some of his own money into our town and thats one reason people are so upset by the lack of any progress. Several prominent buildings like the Salem Theater and others have been sold during this development period, why did Conroy not purchase them and begin his downtown transformation? It is pretty clear by his actions that unless he is going to spend other peoples money, he will not invest in Naugatuck. We should move this sad excuse of a project out of the way and focus our efforts on bonafide developers with the resources to produce smaller victories for town. We cannot afford another 5 years of agony while wasting money producing nothing. Mr. Carlson and the board need to compel the developer to get things going sooner or get out. We all understand the economy is bad, but a developer with the best interests of the town at heart would have reached into his wallet and funded something, or purchased a building to show commitment. Losing my faith in all the parties involved.
Paul Singley September 30, 2011 at 01:47 AM
Wow, Charley. That's interesting to hear from someone who was so heavily supportive of this project from the very beginning. Judging from the comments I hear on a regular basis, many people feel the same way.
Patrick Scalisi September 30, 2011 at 12:52 PM
I have supported Renaissance Place from the beginning and continue to support the project. I agree with many of the commentors that it is a good plan that unfortunately came at the wrong time. Mr. Conroy has one final chance to provide some results. I understand that these things take time, and in this economy, they're going to take even more time. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt until his contract has expired. After that, I agree with Mr. Carlson's statement that we just can't give Mr. Conroy "a carte blanche extension."
Deb Goodwin October 02, 2011 at 11:57 PM
Pat, Mr. Conroy, Mr Carlson and all of the yes men should be held accountable for wasting precious time loaded with excuse after excuse after excuse for the last five years. Put YOUR money on the table Conroy and deliver. This is not that complicated, either Conroy delivers or he goes home. Mr Carlson should step down or at least proceed with caution in the future before he puts all of Naugatucks eggs in one basket.

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