The city is searching for someone to develop the site of the former Armstrong Rubber Co. Corporation Counsel Lee Tiernan confirmed a report this week this city was eyeing getting a developer on board.
Armstrong, which closed its West Haven facility in 1980, went out of business after being absorbed by Perrelli Tire. The campus has the former corporate headquarters, as well as much of manufacturing locations.
Tiernan said the time to develop the property is more than overdue.
“For all intents and purposes the Armstrong Facility, has not operated as a manufacturing facility since 1980. That is 40 years ago. Approximately 10 years ago a proposal for apartments at the site was rejected by the Planning and Zoning Commission,” he said. “So, the question is, is this administration doing anything to spur development at the site?”
The city has to be cautious on how it proceeds. Decisions made in past years have dogged the municipality’s ability to attract new construction.
“Down the road from the Armstrong Building you will find a Walmart, Aldi, McDonalds, Texas Roadhouse, and a Hampton Inn. The City of West Haven bonded $8 million for those developments in 2002 and the city is staying paying the debt on those bonds,” Tiernan said. “Those investments were supposed to “spur development” in the surrounding area and one would have to conclude the result is mixed at best.”
What this administration is trying to do is to assist private development of the site without a massive injection of city funds he explained>
“For example, my office has assigned a law student intern from UConn Law School to assist the city in educating the owners of the site of the resources available to it from the city. The Intern provides work at no cost to the city,” he said. “We have alerted Stop & Shop (the owners of the Armstrong Building) of the assistance we can provide with any environmental or brownfield issues for example, as well as zoning issues. Moreover, we have indicated that the individuals who make up the Planning and Zoning Commission are different than the ones who rejected the apartment plan 10 years ago. Beyond that we can partner with the owners concerning requests for state bonding or grants.”
The Intern is actually from the area where the Stop & Shop headquarters is located and thus limited face-to-face meetings are even possible during this COVID time.
Tiernan admitted the city is making a positive effort to bring some type of development to the campus.
“This is indeed happening right now. It probably should have happened sooner, but the city is trying to maintain services with reduced staff. According to Fred Messore, the Commissioner of Planning and Development, the owners of the Armstrong Building are actively looking for development proposals and potential buyers of the sit,” he said..
He said thc administration is improving city-owned land across the train tracks to ensure that land is clean and available should it factor into any development plans.
“Obviously, any sale of that city land would necessarily involve provisions for a new site for those vital needs of the Public Works Dept,” he said.
He said the game plan is an easy one.
“Our approach is simple, create an ongoing conversation, consistent and persistent with Stop & Shop. We will try to address the needs they suggest, to create new development on the site. The intern can dedicate significant time to this task under my supervision through till December,” he said. “I think in three weeks we will have more to report. We are confident that will a little prodding, but without massive city bond funds or city resources, we can get a new development for this Elm Street site.”