Preliminary plans are moving forward for more residential and commercial development on Canal Street, on the south side of the Derby-Shelton Bridge.
John Guedes, President of Primose Companies, became an integral part of the Shelton riverfront revitalization efforts back in 2005. While the economy delayed some projects, he said, his company is moving forward with preliminary plans for the properties known as the Spongex and Rolfite sites. The plans include a new road that would lead traffic from Canal around the new development and out to Bridge Street.
In the preliminary plan — which has yet to go before the Planning and Zoning Commission — the Spongex building would be converted into residential units, similar to the Birmingham, nearby.“Right now, we are looking at roughly 50 residential units — mixed one-, two-, three-bedroom,” Guedes said. “The plan would be to demolish all the structures with the exception of the original, main structure.”
Guedes described the residential units as “working class” suitable for professionals.
To the left of the building now is a narrow through road, Bridge Street East, that leads from Canal to Bridge Street. Under the plan, that road would be closed to traffic and become a pedestrian walkway, with landscaping, Guedes said.
“The existing Bridge Street East layout is very difficult to maneuver,” Guedes said. “At the top of the street you have a blind left side, no way of seeing incoming traffic from the bridge.
“The proposed road relocation would provide for a T connection and eliminate the blind side.”
A new street would be constructed that leads from Canal and then around new development and out to Bridge Street.
“It is safer for both vehicles and pedestrians and provides for another landscape area,” Guedes said. “The city has been looking to do something like this for years.”
It would also help alleviate some traffic congestion, according to Mayor Mark Lauretti.
The commercial piece nearby would be separated from the residential units by the new road. Primrose Companies is still working on that plan.
“There is still a lot of work to go but the plan is about 14,000 square feet of ground level commercial space, designed to accommodate a restaurant, shops and so forth, and on the upper level there would be about 5,000 square feet of office space.”
The new development has been discussed informally by the Planning and Zoning Commission’s downtown subcommittee and a tour of the site was given to city officials last Friday.
“Everyone was very excited and supportive of us moving forward in the next few weeks,” Guedes said.
The commission would have to approve zoning changes to allow the development there.
“The area south of the bridge was never rezoned,” Guedes said. “We have been proceeding with the environmental studies necessary and the next step would be submitting a formal proposal to the city in the next week or so for the reconfiguration of Bridge Street East.”
Across the street from the potential development is the former Chromium Processing site, which is a dilapidated building, with broken windows and graffiti. The building was foreclosed on and Mr. Lauretti told The Herald that the city is in the process of acquiring the property for the purpose of demolishing the building.
Guedes said development of that area of Canal Street is key in creating a stronger downtown business district.
“You have Veterans Park and the Riverwalk and then to get to the Birmingham you have to pass through this hodgepodge of dilapidated buildings,” Guedes said.
Guedes said that the plan is for a gradual introduction of additional housing on Canal. If the residential development plan is approved, a few months of additional planning would mean a groundbreaking in the spring and then another year before the units are ready for occupancy. That schedule wouldn’t interfere with AvalonBay’s 250-unit development down the road, which is in the midst of construction.
“There is always a demand for quality housing in the area,” Guedes said.
Guedes said the increase in residential housing downtown will help to transform downtown’s economy.
“The hope is as this progress continues, you’ll see a change in the type of shops that begin to open up and more population of professionals brings other professionals like doctors, attorneys and accountants,” Guedes said.
The developer said the change is exciting.
“I’ve been excited from day one and we have been at it for seven years,” he said. “Unfortunately, progress has been slow because of the economic times we hit but right now we are going through that transition.”