The man who wants to turn a blighted eyesore on Ansonia’s Main Street into a mixed-use development has until Tuesday (Feb. 10) to fix up the property or face the possibility of fines totalling more than $1 million.
A blight hearing on the property — 501 E. Main St., the former “Process Lab” of the Farrel Corp. — was scheduled for Feb. 4 but was pushed to next week because the developer, Moustapha Diakhate, was unable to attend.
Diakhate purchased the building and several others formerly owned by the Farrel Corp. in January 2013, amid much fanfare and promises of redevelopment. No redevelopment plans have been submitted.
Meanwhile, Mayor David Cassetti’s administration has adopted a get tough policy toward blight — and Diakhate’s properties downtown are among the most visible blighted properties in the city.
Cassetti has said he understands Diakhate is a new owner, but the city still wants the properties cleaned up.
In November the city threatened Diakhate with blight fines of $20,700 per day if he didn’t fix up the process lab, an 88,000-square-foot building with more than 200 broken windows, graffiti, overgrown vegetation, and crumbling cement.
Diakhate said he’s making progress. But the building still has lots of broken windows and graffiti, and the deadline has come and gone.
Ansonia Corporation Counsel John Marini said it looks like more work needs to be done.
If that doesn’t happen, Marini said he’ll “probably” ask the hearing officer in the case, local lawyer Keith Murray, to levy the blight fine against Diakhate.
In Ansonia, owners of blighted properties can fight the designation in a sort of blight “People’s Court” in City Hall.
“At this point I’m not seeing compliance,” Marini said. “I see an effort, but I don’t see compliance.”
‘I Will Revive Downtown’
Diakhate said in an email that he’ll do whatever he needs to do to deal with the blighted building.
He said he would cover the graffiti on the Main Street side of the building with plywood by Friday (Feb. 6).
“The weather and snow piling up have delayed us,” he said.
He explained that boarding up windows isn’t a simple process.
“The other broken windows will only be replaced during the major renovations which cannot start without planning and zoning approvals,” Diakhate added. “The buildings are all secured by fences all around. The broken windows are no longer causing any danger to the general public.”
Diakhate said that he’s in for the long haul to see the redevelopment move forward.
Diakhate said in December that a development plan for the property would be ready in January. On Thursday (Feb. 5), he said plans would be submitted this month.
“I am looking beyond just curing this blight issue,” he said. “My goal is to file a zoning application this month.”
He said he’ll soon launch a new website with more information on the project.
“I believe the residents of Ansonia will be very happy,” he said. “It was worth the long wait . . . With the help of the town and residents, I will revive the downtown area. Time to move past this blight issue and work as a team.”
Article continues after renderings of the redevelopment plans Diakhate sent to the Valley Indy in December. He has said he wants to redevelop the building into a 100-apartment mixed-use development with retail on its ground floors
The city’s blight hearing with Diakhate is scheduled for Feb. 10.
“The hearing officer is going to be the one to make the determination whether or not it’s blight, whether or not there has been significant remediation,” Marini said. “It’s really in their hands, but from the city’s perspective, we want substantial compliance.”
But he seemed to leave open the possibility that the city could reach yet another deal with Diakhate. The city isn’t trying to chase an interested developer out of town.
“We want success too,” Marini said, citing an agreement the city reached with the owner of the Ansonia Copper & Brass Company to demolish part of the decaying buildings on its property in exchange for property tax forgiveness. “If we could work with the property owner, we will.”