Buildings on the south side of Main Street should start coming down within 90 days, Derby Mayor Anita Dugatto announced Tuesday.
The buildings, which formerly housed apartments, a liquor store, a religious shop and a tile store among other uses, must come down to make way for the long-planned widening of Route 34/Main Street in downtown Derby.
The state purchased the properties in order to take them down.
“Their removal represents another step forward in the Route 34 reconstruction project,” Dugatto said in a prepared statement.
Dugatto said the state Department of Transportation told her about the planned demolition last week.
Kevin Nursick, a spokesman for the state DOT, said five buildings will be taken down.
The plan is for the DOT to give the buildings to the Derby Fire Department for training purposes in December. Nursick said the buildings will be demolished sometime between December and March.
Nursick said the Route 34 widening project is scheduled to start in the spring of 2019.
The prepared statement from Derby City Hall included a comment from Joe Salemme.
His company purchased the former Lifetouch property at 90 Main St. April 10, according to land records in Derby City Hall.
The purchase price was $250,000.
Salemme’s property is near the buildings that will face the wrecking ball.
“The state’s scheduled demolition of the adjacent building will create an attractive development area for retail and commercial tenants,” he said, according to the press release.
The Connecticut Post reported Salemme and the Dugatto administration hope to open a jobs training facility at the property though the same article notes a hotel or retail is also a possibility.
It’s a municipal election year in Derby and downtown redevelopment is a key issue, as it is every two years.
Rich Dziekan, the Republican candidate for mayor, remarked Wednesday that “big” downtown redevelopment announcements just before an election have become something of a Derby tradition.
Andrew Baklik, Dziekan’s campaign manager, said Mayor Dugatto’s announcement is an election year ploy.
The two are scheduled to debate 7 p.m. Oct. 24 in the Derby High School auditorium.
“It’s sad that it took pressure from the Dziekan campaign to see movement on the downtown project. Of course these buildings won’t be down in time for the election so it seems like yet another gimmick by the Dugatto Campaign,” Baklik said.
The Route 34 widening project from the Shelton bridge to Home Deport has been in the planning stages for years.
It is one of two critically important downtown initiatives in Derby.
The other is the Derby redevelopment zone, the under-developed land on the south side of Main Street along the Housatonic River.
The city has been trying to get something going in the redevelopment zone for generations.
Dugatto’s administration used a $445,000 grant to fund its “Downtown Now” planning initiative.
That process, which included several public forums with a team of planning consultants, resulted in what the city calls a “U Street” master plan design for the redevelopment zone.
The Dugatto administration most recently received a $5 million grant to go toward making the “U Street” concept a reality in the redevelopment zone.
The grant money will be used to install the new street grid, along with utility infrastructure, sidewalks and “streetscaping” in the development zone.
A conceptual plan presented to the Derby Planning and Zoning Commission in January by the Derby Mayor’s Office Chief of Staff Leslie Creane showed a development that could yield 469 residential units, 96,000 square feet of retail, and 66,000 square feet of small manufacturing in the redevelopment zone.
Derby plans to sell city-owned land to developers through a request for proposals.
But first the city has to get approvals from the Army Corps of Engineers and the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to allow development along the river’s levee system.
Derby officials are working to get those approvals, Dugatto said in the press release.