By Josh LaBella
The developers of the Havens project have not been good neighbors, according to Republican mayoral candidate Michele Gregorio in a press conference last Friday.
In a statement Gregorio gave on the corner of Water and Center Streets, the Republican challenged the lack of progress made on the project during Mayor Nancy Rossi’s administration.
The economic development project aims to see a luxury outlet mall built in West Haven by developers The Haven Group, LLC, and The Simon Group. It is anticipated to be give a major economic boost to the city.
Gregorio said the results of the developer’s lack of concern for the city have been devastating, adding that Mayor Rossi has “simply dropped the ball.”
“On her first day in office, the mayor should have called the developers in to inform them that leaving abandoned buildings deteriorating on this site will not be tolerated,” said Gregorio. “The lack of security is not acceptable. Why did it take fires breaking out on the property to get any kind of security here?”
According to the candidate, even the current security is not adequate. Among other issues with safety, Gregorio pointed to children seen playing at the Bilco site, squatters, drug activity, crime and local residents’ inability to sell or refinance their homes.
Gregorio questioned how many more years the city would have to wait before real construction begins. She also brought up a meeting between the mayor, the developer and the state delegation that she said happened two weeks ago.
“After not receiving funds that were previously promised to them, the developer is putting a new proposal on the table,” said Gregorio. “The developer is looking to the state for a special district that will allow them to receive credits on sales tax collected from retail tenants of the Havens project.”
The candidate said West Haven’s delegation to the General Assembly will have to present this proposal during the 2020 session. She said if the agreement passes, construction would hopefully begin in 2021 with completion coming the following year.
“So, in contradiction to a statement made from this administration only a couple of months ago that we will be shopping at the new mall in 2020, hopefully, we will be shopping there in 2022,” she said. “Hopefully.”
Gregorio said transparency and communication are critical in this project and others. She asked why the mayor had not informed the public of the supposed meeting. She also questioned the fact that citizens were not informed that the first deal for the sale of the Thompson and Stiles Schools had fallen through until after the September primary.
The Republican candidate said, if elected mayor, she would “hold the Havens developer’s feet to the fire” by enforcing fines for blight, insisting on better security for the area and improving communication between all stakeholders.
“West Haven residents deserve to understand the status of this project,” said Gregorio. “Closed-door meetings, resulting in no progress, and zero transparency, only make things worse. Are we really looking at 2022 or beyond for completion? We can only continue to wonder what will happen in the meantime.”
Mayor Nancy Rossi did not reply to inquiries for comment by press time. She said she will have a response for next week’s edition.