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Mayor: Derby Development Deal Dead

by Ethan Fry | Apr 15, 2013 11:15 am

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Posted to: Derby

FILEAfter two and a half years, a California-based company is “bowing out” of plans to redevelop downtown Derby, Mayor Anthony Staffieri said Monday.

Though a contract between Derby and Eclipse Development doesn’t expire until Thursday, Staffieri said he received a letter last week from Douglas Gray, Eclipse’s president, which the mayor characterized as Gray “graciously bowing out.”

“It’s a done issue with Eclipse,” the mayor said.

Though Gray said in an e-mail Monday that he hasn’t given up on Derby, Staffieri said Eclipse’s time is up.

“The economy has caused prospective tenants to be sitting on the sidelines for quite a while,” Gray wrote. “I intend to keep speaking with prospective tenants about Derby as we work on other projects in hope of still bringing Derby to fruition.”

The Valley Indy requested a copy of Gray’s letter under the Freedom of Information Act.

Background

The City of Derby has been trying for years to spur new activity in its redevelopment zone, an area that stretches along Main Street next to the Housatonic River from roughly the Derby-Shelton bridge to the former Lifetouch property.

Eclipse Development of California is the city’s preferred developer. They have a contract with Derby giving them first shot at a project within the development zone — until Thursday, when the contract is due to expire.

Meanwhile, the city’s Redevelopment Agency has met just twice in 2012 — and Eclipse missed one of its own stated goals to get development started.

Given how the process has dragged on, Staffieri said Monday that Eclipse was out of the picture.

“We gave him two and a half years,” Staffieri said. “That’s it. It’s time to move along.”

FILENow What?

The mayor said the city’s Redevelopment Agency will meet — for the first time since last August — to discuss options on how to get downtown development going again.

The agency’s next regularly scheduled meeting is May 14.

He said the city has been contacted by other developers interested in the site, but couldn’t have “meaningful communication” with them because the city’s contract with Eclipse, the city’s “preferred developer,” prevented it.

Despite the experience, Staffieri said the city might adopt another preferred developer going forward.

The city is in “exploratory talks” with some developers “just looking to see what’s out there,” he said.

Or Derby might look to other ways to develop downtown, he said, without revealing details.

“There might be a better way to do this where we can get results,” he said.

Asked how, the mayor said: “I can’t tell you that.”

Sheila O’Malley, the city’s economic development director, said she’ll outline alternatives to the Redevelopment Agency about how Derby will move forward.

“We have other options,” she said. “We feel pretty good about them, and comfortable.”

Asked if the city would go with another preferred developer for the site, she said, “I don’t think that that’s going to be possible.”

While the city likes the concept, she said, other developers have inked options to purchase some of the properties within the redevelopment zone, which would make it difficult for one to have control over the project.

Click here and here for previous stories about other developers looking at properties in the redevelopment zone.

Members of the Board of Aldermen last week said the city should offer to buy the remaining properties it doesn’t control in the zone, and use an upcoming referendum to pay for it.

O’Malley said that while owning all the properties would make her life easier, “I don’t know that that’s the answer to our prayers.”

Staffieri also doubted whether the necessary appraisals and other paperwork could be completed in time for a referendum.

“For the city to go into the real estate market, to be buying properties, it’s very difficult,” he said. “You’d be jumping into a swamp.”

The mayor predicted the area will be redeveloped in stages.

“Developers are still moving in a positive way, but they’re moving slowly,” Staffieri said. “Instead of trying to do one big project all at once, they’ll do bits and pieces of it.”

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Comments

posted by: Ron Sill on April 15, 2013  4:53pm

As we thought from the beginning have a master plan. Do it in parcels that tie into the master plan. How about more local developers? How about communication between both political parties toward a common goal here, long overdue!  Ron Sill

posted by: Rosalie Cota on April 15, 2013  7:27pm

I agree with you, Mr. Sill. Especially the part about the parties having a common goal. I hope the bad mouthing stops with Marc and the brainstorming between all the politicians who care about Derby starts. The time for blaming should be over and everyone should be working together for a common solution.

posted by: Giacomo Ito Mascolo on April 16, 2013  10:38am

Someone might want to pick up the phone and call John Guedes.. don’t you think he’d like to have some commerce for his tenants across the bridge? Ya know within WALKING distance with the
greenway. Oh wait.. that makes too much sense, I digress.

posted by: Walt Mayhew on April 17, 2013  7:47am

A forgone conclusion to anyone even remotely following this project. Now can we jointly begin moving forward in a way that makes sense. Lets begin by the city acquiring all the properties in question as Attorney Thomas suggested many months ago so when the opportunity to develop this property presents itself, and I believe it will down the road, we are ready as a community to act. I also like Mr. Sill’s idea of a community agreed upon development plan, guided by someone with the expertise, but not a “vested party.”

Even without a developer we should not let this area and its development fall even farther off the radar than it already has.

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