Polluted and often abandoned properties known as brownfield sites are a blight on many Connecticut communities. Bringing these critical properties back to life requires the ongoing collaboration of municipalities, state and federal agencies, and the private sector through the Regional Brownfields Partnership (RBP). At its November 30, 2022 annual meeting, the 24-town RBP recognized the accomplishments of the past year and also the enormous opportunities for large scale redevelopment that can contribute to future financial and environmental sustainability for member communities. RBP Chairwoman Sheila O’Malley, who serves as Ansonia’s Economic Development Director, observed, “The meeting defined the critical need for partners to turn these sites that were once considered hopeless into true economic generators.”
At the conference, Christine O’Neill, an environmental planner at the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments (NVCOG), highlighted milestones from this year’s activities such as ribbon-cuttings at the Franklin Avenue apartments in Torrington and the Bank Street Park in Waterbury, the NVision 2022 environmental justice panel discussion, and earning a $3.9 million grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). NVCOG’s brownfields manager Ricardo Rodriguez noted that over $1 million from this grant went to the remediation of the former Beaton & Corbin factory site in Southington where a private developer has now invested $1.5 million to construct medical office space.
Several representatives of member communities shared their success stories in reutilizing former brownfields sites. One success story includes the recent conversion of a former manufacturing site in Berlin into a development that, according to developer Anthony Valenti of the Newport Realty Group, will have nearly 100,000 square feet once completed and will form a new center for the community. Steele Center @ Farmington Avenue will mix stores, offices and 70 apartments that will allow people to live and work near the train station in Berlin. The development will consist of five buildings. The first, finished in the fall, has 16 apartments as well as space for up to four businesses. Trio Health Care, the Hop Haus Gastropub and an attorney’s office will take occupancy during the winter. Christopher Edge, Berlin’s Economic Development Director, said 13 of the apartments are rented and they too will be occupied this winter.
Christal Preszler, Newtown’s Deputy Director of Economic and Community Development, showcased the cleanup and redevelopment of the former Fairfield Hills state hospital campus to create a new municipal center along with office space and a brewery.
To learn more about the Regional Brownfields Partnership, please visit https://nvcogct.gov/who-we-are/commissions-committees/regional-brownfields-partnership/ .