Two parcels within the Derby redevelopment zone are being sold to a developer — but the buyer is not Eclipse Development, the city’s contracted “preferred developer.”
The Derby redevelopment zone includes a number of properties, both public and private, stretching along the shores of the Housatonic River from the Derby-Shelton bridge to the former Lifetouch property.
Attorney Dominick Thomas represents three properties in the redevelopment zone — Derby Feed, M. Jacobs & Sons and the former Housatonic Lumber Co. property.
Thomas told the Derby Board of Aldermen Thursday that one of his clients is poised to sign a deal with a developer on Friday. Thomas declined to name which of his clients is cutting the deal. He also wouldn’t name the developer.
Thomas also said the same developer is making a deal with a second property in the redevelopment zone. Thomas does not represent that property owner.
“I’m sure it’ll made public by the developers at some point, but it is two of the major parcels,” Thomas said.
While Thomas wouldn’t name the second property, the Valley Indy reported in November that Lifetouch was in negotiations to sell its property off Main Street near the Route 8 south entrance ramp for about $850,000.
Update: Frederick Petrella of the Connecticut Realty Group, LLC, confirmed in an e-mail Friday morning that the Lifetouch property on Main Street has a buyer.
“We are under contract with a developer who is planning on razing the building and developing the site once they secure a tenant,” Petrella said. “We have already begun approaching potential retail tenants and have received interest.”
With Lifetouch being sold, the Housatonic Lumber site is probably the other site being sold to the retail developer, since it’s next to Lifetouch.
The properties will likely be redeveloped as retail, Thomas said.
Meanwhile, city officials are still waiting to see if their preferred developer, Eclipse Development Group, will come forward with its plans to build a shopping center somewhere else in the redevelopment zone.
The city has a contract naming Eclipse the preferred developer. No money was exchanged in that contract — it just gave Eclipse the chance to get a redevelopment project off the ground and prohibited Derby from courting other developers.
Derby’s contract with Eclipse was signed in April 2010. Eclipse initially came forward with plans for 180,000 square feet of office and retail space. Then it was shrunk to a 30,000-square-foot retail development. Construction was supposed to start in 2012, but didn’t.
Meanwhile, the Derby Redevelopment Agency met only twice in 2012 as the redevelopment plans went stagnant.
Thomas lectured the Aldermen Thursday, telling them the only way they’ll see progress in the long-delayed redevelopment zone is to ask voters for permission to borrow money and buy out the remaining private property owners.
“It seems to be the city is waiting for a developer to do these things,” Thomas said. “You’re not going to find a single developer to do that now. You need to go down there, own the property yourself and deal directly.”
Shiela O’Malley, the city’s economic development director, said the city had offered to buy private property in the redevelopment zone some years back but was turned down.
Thomas’ comments, coupled with the lack of movement on the redevelopment zone, frustrated Derby Democratic Aldermen Carmen DiCenso, Art Gerckens and Ron Sill.
See the video at the top of this page for a discussion between the Democrats, Mayor Anthony Staffieri and Sheila O’Malley, the city’s economic development director.
DiCenso and Sill pointed out the city’s Water Pollution Control Authority is gearing up for a referendum in the spring asking voters for permission to borrow millions of dollars to repair Derby’s sewer system.
They wondered if it was possible to add a question about borrowing money for the redevelopment zone. Joseph Coppola, the city’s corporation counsel, indicated the Aldermen would have to move quickly to get such a question on the ballot by the spring.
O’Malley, meanwhile, said Eclipse Development could come back with information on their plan for the redevelopment zone in March.
The city’s contract with Eclipse expires in April.
After the Aldermen meeting, Staffieri said lots of developers are interested in investing in the redevelopment zone, especially retailers. The hundreds of apartments going up just across the Housatonic River in Shelton makes retail in Derby that much more attractive.
If Eclipse can’t get anything off the ground by April, Staffieri said it will not be hard to find other developers.
The city’s been on a bit of a redevelopment kick lately, with redevelopment projects slated for Red Raider Plaza and the former Valley Bowl on Pershing Drive.
“The city’s blooming. It will all come together,” Staffieri said.