Lauretti: Mas property could become Shelton manufacturing hub with ‘national name brand’ companies

Photo of Brian Gioiele
The intersection of Bridgeport Avenue (Rt. 108) and Constitution Blvd. South, in Shelton, Conn. April 14, 2021.

The intersection of Bridgeport Avenue (Rt. 108) and Constitution Blvd. South, in Shelton, Conn. April 14, 2021.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

The city-owned Mas property could become a manufacturing corporate park — and extending Constitution Boulevard North is the key to making it a reality.

Mayor Mark Lauretti at a joint meeting of the Planning and Zoning and Inland Wetlands commissions earlier this month presented concepts for developing the nearly 70-acre parcel near Bridgeport Avenue, with plans that included extending Constitution Boulevard to reach Shelton Avenue/Route 108.

The Mas property extends about halfway to Route 108 from Bridgeport Avenue, and the city has secured the rights-of-way for the rest, he said.

“The hour is now,” Lauretti said. “The economic cycle comes once every 10, 15 years, and if you miss it, you will be left behind. When people are ready to put their oar in the water, we have to be ready as well.”

Lauretti said he called the joint meeting to “open a dialogue” with both commissions, since the city would need a zone change before any work could be done on the site.

Members of both commissions sought assurance that the development would not adversely affect the surrounding residential neighborhoods. To that, Lauretti asked that both commissions rewatch a drone flyover of the area, which shows how the city melds residential with similar developments.

“The vision is great ... I love it,” P&Z Commissioner Mark Widomski said.

The Mas property was the city’s first Planned Development District in the 1980s, but the designation has expired. Lauretti said a new zone change request would call for the property to move to light industrial or another similar zone. Much of the land is zoned residential.

“There has been significant interest from light industrial (operations) over the past nine months,” Lauretti said. “These are some national name brands.”

Lauretti said one major manufacturer — whose name he would not give because negotiations are ongoing — is seeking a 270,000-square-foot building on the property.

While negotiating with the company, Lauretti said he has since been approached by two other companies each eyeing 100,000-square-foot buildings.

“We have a significant number of companies from Connecticut and New York looking to relocate here,” Lauretti said. “They are seeking to consolidate and bring their headquarters here. They want to be in Shelton, for many reasons.”

The companies, according to Lauretti, are major manufacturers, which would also distribute their products from the location.

“This is all contingent on getting access and the road constructed … that will not be a small task,” Lauretti said. “But I think at this point — I think the economic viability for this type of use is now there. The uses in the whole area would be consistent … it would become a manufacturing corporate park.”

In 1988, the P&Z approved a Planned Development District for most of the Mas property that included four 10-story office buildings and an 82-unit residential condominium.

The project collapsed in the real estate crash of the late 1980s. The lead development entity was Citytrust, a Bridgeport-based bank that no longer exists.

The city bought the land after it went into foreclosure from the FDIC and got an adjoining small parcel from the FDIC once environmental remediation was completed.

The Mas property is now vacant. It is mostly wooded with considerable stone ledges and several ponds, including one some 600 feet long and 250 to 300 feet wide, and lies between Bridgeport Avenue, Cots Street, Tisi Drive, Sunwood Condos on Nells Rock Road, Regent Drive, Walnut Avenue, and Kings Highway. Part of the land abuts the back of the Perry Hill School property.

Lauretti said some of the land’s rougher features could be terraced into the landscape. He also said some of the interested companies recommended the creation of walking trails.

“The wetlands features are what are attracting interested companies,” Lauretti said.

Lauretti said the April 7 meeting was held to give commissioners a “flavor of where we would and could go depending on the challenges.”

Plans on the city website show an extended roadway with seven separate lots, one of which is 10.6 acres of designated open space. Each of the remaining lots has one structure on it. In all, there is a 276,250-square-foot building, two 105,000-square-foot buildings, and two 34,250-square-foot buildings, along with related parking for each separate structure.

Constitutional Boulevard North would extend northerly, terminating at Shelton Avenue/Route 108 where it intersects with Nells Rock Road, according to Lauretti.

Lauretti said the road work would cost between $10 and $12 million. He said he plans to seek state and federal highway funding to cover roadway development.

“There is a lot of money out there right now ... the government is printing a lot money,” Lauretti said. “The government likes shovel-ready jobs, and this is about as shovel-ready as it gets. It’s right in their wheel house. It’s economic development, and it’s jobs.

“I’m hopeful the Lamont administration will see the value of this project,” Lauretti added, saying that in his 30 years as mayor he has received funds from four different governors and five U.S. Presidents.

“These governors understand the value a place like Shelton brings to the state. We’ve become an employment hub,” he said.

Lauretti said plans remain preliminary. The mayor said he is working with the city’s commissions, with engineering firms and the State Traffic Commission.

“The last eight months have been very hectic,” Lauretti said.