Downtown Duke Deal Declared Dead In Ansonia

A long-delayed plan to redevelop two buildings in downtown Ansonia is dead.

Duke Realty of Connecticut, a limited liability company from New Jersey, contracted with Ansonia in 2008 to purchase the buildings at 153 Main St. and 497 E. Main St. for $1.5 million. Duke was supposed to convert the old building into condos, with the Ansonia Senior Center remaining a tenant on the ground floor of 153 Main St.

But four years after the contract was signed, and with Duke missing a deadline of last month’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting to come forward with a plan, the city is now looking elsewhere.

“Duke Realty is out,” Kevin Blake, Ansonia’s corporation counsel, said Wednesday at a meeting of the Ansonia Development Corporation, a non-profit, public-private partnership formed to manage the sale of the property. “The September meeting has come and gone. No submission was ever made by Duke Realty.”

Click the play button on the video to see Blake’s comments.

“Based upon the agreement that was reached, these buildings are now back with the commission to go out to request additional proposals,” Blake said.

Mayor James Della Volpe said after the meeting that the city will do just that.

“We’re looking to move forward,” he said. “The deal’s dead, we gave them ample time and they didn’t move forward on it, so we felt as though we have to go out and be more aggressive, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Ansonia Development Corporation members voted unanimously to authorize Blake to request bids for a new appraisal on the properties, since the last one was done in 2002 and reflected a value of $710,000.

FILEAs for what kind of development the properties will see, Della Volpe said research showed a residential development would be best.

FILE“We’ve had several studies done and having housing, market rate housing, on Main Street was the proper way to go and that’s what we’re looking to do,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll have options very shortly that will be in the best interests of the city.”

Earlier this year city officials toured the Main Street building with the president of Housatonic Community College as a possible annex for that institution.

Vinnie Scarlata, the chairman of the city’s Economic Development Commission, favors the community college idea for the property and attended Wednesday’s meeting seeking the development corporation’s support.

“Housatonic draws about 600 students from the Valley for their new curriculum,” Scarlata said. “I wouldn’t mind getting a handful of them. I’d take half of that from them, and then whatever else we could find local. How many other Valley people would go to the school if it was anchored right here?”

“We’ve got a perfect facility for it,” he said, noting that there’s ample parking and the city’s Metro North station nearby. “This used to be a factory town. We’ve got plenty of capacity for that.”

He said a local developer, Tonino Mavuli, has already shown interest in the buildings. Since the properties are city-owned, the city will be required to put out a public request for proposals.

Committee members took no action on the community college idea, or any other plan for the property, opting instead to wait and see what the new appraisal will say before discussing the project at their next meeting, scheduled for Nov. 14.

Asked about the community college idea after the meeting, Della Volpe was noncommittal.

“Vinnie’s doing a great job trying to entice them to come here,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll have options.”

The building at 153 Main St. is 45,000 square feet. It was used in the 1900s by the Osborne and Cheeseman Co., according to information from the Valley Council of Governments. Palmer Bros. Trucking moved in in 1955 and remained there with other businesses until about 1985.

Other tenants at 153 Main St. over the years included Dr. Ed Blumenthal and other physicians, Sharkey Screw Machine Products, and “Wild Bill’s” factory outlet.

The building next door at 497 E. Main St. is 50,000 square feet with five floors. Its history dates back to 1884, and it was used for years as storage for the Osborne and Cheeseman Co. The New England Cap Co. occupied the building in the 1990s.

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