City of Shelton may buy Polish Club to boost downtown development

Mayor Mark Lauretti said the city could purchase the Kazimir Pulaski Club on Bridge Street downtown to make way for private development.

“They’re standing in the way of progress,” Lauretti said. “This process has been going on for years and nothing is happening.”

Lauretti said if developer Angelo Melisi isn’t able to move forward with his plans for the site, the city will find another interested party.

“The city will take it over and give it to someone who can,” he said of the club property.

Melisi is hoping to pursue a project that would combine the club property with the adjoining Howe Avenue vacant lot he owns. He received approval for the project in 2007, and it would include ground-floor retail space and upper-floor apartments.

The project was stymied by the recession, the need to acquire part of the now-closed-off section of Bridge Street from the state (Melisi now owns it), and the inability to purchase the club property.

Melisi insists he’s ready to pursue the project now, but still hasn’t been able to get the club — known to most as the “Polish Club” — to agree to sell its property. “I’ve been trying to work with them for 11 years,” Melisi said.

He said he could provide the Polish Club with another location in Derby, which he would buy for them. “I could make a deal with them within 24 hours,” Melisi said. “I’m ready to go.”

Appraisal and engineering report

John Liptak, Polish Club president, said the club is now dealing “directly” with the mayor.

Based on a recent meeting with Lauretti, Liptak plans to get an appraisal on the property soon, which could help set a price for a possible sale.

He said selling the site and moving elsewhere is what will probably happen.

“We’ll relocate,” Liptak said. “That’s one of our best options. The whole area is going to be developed, from Canal Street to Howe Avenue, so we’d just be a thorn in someone else’s side.”

Having an appraisal will prepare the club for dealing with a potential buyer, whether that’s the city, Melisi or another developer.

Liptak also is trying to get a structural engineer to look at the building, with part of the structure recently being cited as “unsafe” by the Shelton Building Department.

“We’re doing our part,” he said of club actions in recent weeks.

‘No improvements’

Joseph Ballaro, Shelton’s chief building official, said the Polish Club’s April 15 deadline to provide a structural engineering report on the structure passed without a report being provided. “I expect to hear from them shortly,” he said.

Ballaro re-inspected the building early last week and said there have “been no improvements” with the falling brick on West Canal Street.

In fact, the section of sidewalk that is closed off due to structural concerns has been expanded slightly, marked by yellow police tape.

He said he will continue to pursue the matter, but noted the part of the building that houses the club isn’t an immediate safety hazard. The rest of the building is vacant.

Ballaro said he is following city building code requirements with his actions, and is providing information to the city’s corporation counsel for possible future action.

'It would be easier for them to move'

Melisi, who recently met with the Planning and Zoning Commission, said he will finalize plans for his project with or without the Polish Club site. The project will simply be smaller without the club land, he said.

But he said it makes sense for the Polish Club to move because of the building’s structural problems. “It would be easier for them to move to a better place with fewer problems,” he said.

Meanwhile, Lauretti said, the time to get something going is now because of the economic cycle.

“We can’t afford to sit around and miss it,” he said. “Now is the time to be ready.”

He’s pleased a dialogue has been opened with the Polish Club. “We’re talking,” Lauretti said. “I think we’re moving in the right direction.”