Two buildings totaling 400,000 square feet once owned by Farrel Corp. have been purchased for $1.9 million, city officials announced at a press conference in Ansonia City Hall Thursday.
The properties — which are about 10 acres total — straddle both sides of Main Street in the heart of downtown Ansonia, on East Main Street and West Main Street.
Moustapha Diakhate, of Hamden, purchased the properties through his company, Washington Management.
He plans to redevelop the building and parking lot on East Main Street into a mix of retail stores and office space, along with market rate condos and apartments on the upper floors.
The redevelopment on East Main Street could start a year from now — but that was a rough estimate.
The East Main Street building is 227,000 square feet on about 3 acres. The West Main Street property totals 171,100 square feet on 6 acres.
“This is really exciting for the City of Ansonia. It is going to bring people down here,” said Ansonia Mayor James Della Volpe.
Long-term plans for the Farrel property Diakhate now owns on West Main Street were not announced. He said he wanted to first concentrate on getting the East Main Street redevelopment project off the ground.
The Farrel Corp., which still employs about 100 people and has roots in Ansonia dating back to the city’s founding, will still lease space on the properties from Diakhate.
The East Main Street property has been an eyesore in Ansonia for years.
The sale will see it redeveloped, which means its property value will increase — and in turn the city will be able to collect more taxes, Della Volpe said.
In addition, city officials hope the redevelopment will spur more economic activity downtown.
Della Volpe, Rick Dunne, executive director of the Valley Council of Governments, and Bill Purcell, executive director of the Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce, noted the Farrel properties are within walking distance of a Metro-North train station and just minutes from Route 8.
In other words — prime real estate.
“I’m very excited to be a part of Ansonia, officially now,” Diakhate said.
Diakhate’s Washington Management was founded in 2009, according to state records. This is the company’s first redevelopment project in the state.
The Farrel buildings were purchased from Ansonia Real Estate Holdings, LLC, an investment group made up of former executives of and investors in Farrel Corporation.
James Burns, a Farrel employee and member of Ansonia Real Estate Holdings, said he was happy to see the properties sold.
“We were able to find a buyer who really has the vision and desire to bring this project to fruition, which I think will be a benefit to the City of Ansonia,” Burns said.
In 2009, the Farrel Corp. was purchased by the HF Machinery Group, a division of L. Possehl & Co., which is based in Germany.
However, as part of that deal, the HF Machinery group opted not to purchase the land or buildings. To facilitate the deal, Ansonia Real Estate Holdings was created and given ownership of the properties, with Farrel as a tenant.
Della Volpe said the Farrel Corp. is still hugely important to downtown Ansonia.
In fact, the mayor said the venerable company will be Diakhate’s “anchor tenant,” providing financial stability as redevelopment of the East Main Street property gets underway.
To signify Farrel’s importance and what the company means to Ansonia’s history, Della Volpe presented Diakhate with the actual keys to the Farrel buildings.
Vance Taylor, of the Torrington-based Commercial Real Estate Group, represented Diakhate in the sale.
Photo shows the East Main Street portion slated for redevelopment:
Taylor said Diakhate has already been in contact with architects connected to Yale University to do preliminary conceptual designs for the East Main Street redevelopment project.
“I know from talking to Moustapha and the mayor, there is also a desire on both parties, to have some public dialogue and input and conversation on the development so that it’s sensitive to local needs,” Taylor said.
Soil contamination is not thought to be a problem under the East Main Street site.
Dunne, from Valley COG, said soil testing done on a courtyard next to the Farrel property on East Main Street showed no contamination.
Dunne stressed he was referring to soil next to Diakhate’s property — not the property itself.
Any underground contamination would be the responsibility of the Emhart Corporation, which once owned Farrel. That company was subsequently gobbled up by Black & Decker, and then Stanley Black & Decker.
Any contamination in the old buildings themselves would be up to Diakhate to clean up.
Alan M. Fischer, of Fischer Real Estate in Orange, represented the seller, Ansonia Real Estate Holdings.
Officials in Ansonia and Derby have been trying to redevelop their old factories along the Housatonic and Naugatuck rivers for years.
Fischer said the national recession was by far the biggest roadblock to Farrel’s redevelopment.
“There was great interest in this property early on, when it was first listed,” he said. “Unfortunately we ran into an economic catastrophe in this country in 2008.”