Ansonia Mayor David Cassetti will announce details Thursday (Aug. 6) of a plan to demolish about 30,000 square feet of the sprawling Ansonia Brass & Copper complex downtown.
The city has reached a deal by which the company will level a small portion of the nearly 40 acres of factory and office space it owns between the Naugatuck River and Liberty Street.
In exchange, the city will allow the company to deduct up to $400,000 of the cost of the demolition against the roughly $800,000 it owes the city in unpaid taxes and sewer fees.
Cassetti has scheduled a press conference for 2 p.m. Thursday (Aug. 6) at the entrance to the company’s property on Riverside Drive to announce the deal.
Decades ago, the massive factory, along with the neighboring Farrel Corp. factory to its south, were home to thousands of workers working day and night, crowding downtown sidewalks between shifts.
But that vibrance was lost when manufacturing jobs deserted the Valley and the larger U.S.
The jobs went — but the massive, mostly empty factories stayed behind, along with the environmental contamination associated with their use.
The properties — technically, 75 Liberty St. and 7 Riverside Drive — total 38.54 acres. According to city land records online, they have a total appraised value of $3,996,600.
Though the mayor’s announcement will address demolishing part of a property that has blighted downtown Ansonia for years, the long-term fate of the land remains unclear.
Officials suspect there will need to be an extensive cleanup to remediate environmental contamination at the properties, which were used for industrial purposes for more than 150 years.
The demolition to be announced Thursday involves a cluster at the northern end of the company’s property on Liberty Street which was used for packaging and storage, so environmental contamination isn’t believed to be as bad there as the rest of the Ansonia Brass & Copper land.
Still, the company will have to hire an environmental consultant to survey the site and, if need be, remove any contamination before demolition begins.
“The presumption here is that there is an ability to do demo without extensive environmental rehabilitation, which would make these (buildings) ripe for immediate demo,” John Marini, the city’s corporation counsel, said Wednesday (Aug. 6).
Casetti, Marini, and Economic Development Director Sheila O’Malley negotiated the deal with lawyers for Ansonia Copper & Brass.
The deal gives the company a deadline of Dec. 15 for the company to be done with the demolition. The deadline can be revisited if the company runs into delays obtaining permits or needs more time to clean up contaminants.
For its part, the city will hold off on any further enforcement action to collect its back taxes.
Ansonia Copper & Brass is no longer operational, but the company is salvaging its equipment at its property in Ansonia — under the strict supervision of the city, which has filed liens against the company because of the back taxes it owes.
While campaigning for the mayor’s job last year, Cassetti identified the Ansonia Copper & Brass and Farrel properties as vital to the city’s redevelopment, and criticized the lack of action there. He said his vision for the area would be inspired by Bridgeport’s Harbor Yard and West Hartford’s Blue Back Square.
Since taking office, Cassetti has tried to move along action on the site.
“We’re obviously very happy that Ansonia Copper & Brass is stepping up, because they have obligations to the city,” Marini said. “They have a tax obligation, obviously, but they also have an obligation to clean up the industrial condition of the property.”
The city will lose out on some tax revenue it’s owed, he said, but if, for example, it had foreclosed on the property, the taxes would stay unpaid and Ansonia would be left with another big, blighted former industrial property on its hands.
It made more sense in the big picture, he said, to involve the company in a deal to start cleaning up and redeveloping it.
The deal Cassetti will announce Thursday allows the company to conduct sales of scrap from the property of up to $15,000 per month, provided they provide a day’s notice to Tax Collector Tammy Blackwell of any scrapping activity going on at the property and allow her to inspect whatever materials they plan to sell.
Blackwell said Wednesday (Aug. 6) that the company owes the city $401,798.40 in unpaid property taxes, as well as $175,499.96 in unpaid taxes on personal property — equipment, machines, etc. — for a total of $577,298.36.
The deal to be announced Thursday involves only those taxes, and does not involve the company’s sewer fees.
The Valley Indy left a message Wednesday at the publicly listed phone number of Ray McGee, the CEO of the Ansonia Copper & Brass Inc.
The phone number for the company’s Waterbury headquarters has been disconnected.
City officials said Wednesday it’s too early to tell what the property’s long-term future could entail without knowing how contaminated it is.
“It depends on the end use,” O’Malley, the economic development director, said. “If you’re putting a parking lot next to a retail store, sometimes that reduces the cost of cleanup. You can cap it.”
“With these sites you’re typically going to see the same types of contaminants in all these old manufacturing mill buildings,” O’Malley said. “So we kind of know there’s not going to be any surprises. It’s just the extent of the contamination (that’s a question mark).”
She said the redevelopment of the property as a whole will need to be a “public-private partnership” given the size of the property and the scope of all the environmental questions.
A $500,000 grant awarded by the state to the city for downtown redevelopment last month will not be used for work on the Ansonia Copper & Brass property, she said, but the city may seek another state grant to assess environmental contamination there.
Marini said the market will ultimately determine the fate of the land.
“It may be something that we’re thinking about, it may be something that residents are thinking about — we’d love to hear suggestions,” Marini said. “But it may be something that nobody’s thinking about that could end up carrying the day. Right now all we know is we have a large amount of work ahead of us.”
That work will take years, but Marini said the deal to be announced Thursday is a good beginning.
“This project here, this is a start,” Marini said. “This is a tremendous undertaking, and we’ve been very frustrated there hasn’t been any action on this for years. It’s a major challenge and it’s going to take quite some time but this is at least a start.”