Shelton receives state brownfields grant for downtown site

The Rolfite property on Canal Street, shown in the rear close to the Housatonic River, could become part of a downtown revitalization project just south of Bridge Street.
The Rolfite property on Canal Street, shown in the rear close to the Housatonic River, could become part of a downtown revitalization project just south of Bridge Street.

Shelton will receive a state brownfields grant of $79,000 to study the 1.7-acre Rolfite property on Canal Street for mixed-use redevelopment.

The city plans to transfer ownership of the Rolfite property — named for a previous industrial user of the land — to Primrose Companies Realty, controlled by developer John N. Guedes.

In return, Guedes is to pursue a private project to redevelop the combined Rolfite and Spongex properties and build a new public road to connect Canal Street with Bridge Street.

The Rolfite property abuts the Housatonic River slightly south of Bridge Street, or the Derby/Shelton Bridge. The property is vacant at this time.

Grants: Reusing abandoned sites

On Wednesday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced $3.8 million in grants have been awarded to 21 communities to investigate brownfield sites for redevelopment. Brownfields are old industrial properties with unresolved contamination problems.

The grants, available through the state Department of Economic and Community Development’s Municipal Brownfields Assessment and Inventory Grant Program, should enable the communities to take the vital first — or next — step toward reusing sites that in many cases have been underused or abandoned for decades.

Under the program, applicants are eligible to receive grants of up to $200,000 to fund investigation and other pre-development activities to prepare sites for future development and reuse.

‘Ripe for development’

“As Connecticut’s economy continues to grow,” Malloy said, “more and more of our legacy manufacturing and other brownfield sites are becoming ripe for redevelopment and reuse.”

Another grant will go to Derby and the Valley Council of Governments, who will receive $200,000 to investigate the site conditions at O’Sullivan’s Island in Derby (just across the Housatonic River from downtown Shelton).

New public road would be built

Guedes, who developed the nearby Birmingham on the River condominiums, plans to combine the Rolfite property with the adjacent 1-acre Spongex property for a residential and commercial project.

City boards have approved giving the land to Guedes in return for him building a new municipal two-way road to connect Canal Street to Bridge Street, replacing the current one-way access road that runs alongside the former Spongex factory building.

Frontage and access

The new road would give Guedes the frontage and access he needs to develop the Rolfite site, but also could benefit the city. Guedes would turn the existing one-way access road into green space to be part of a residential complex.

In addition, Guedes would construct new parking as part of the development that might be available for public use at night.

Mayor Mark Lauretti said this exchange with Guedes would benefit the city not just by getting a new road but also by encouraging private development to boost the tax base and help the revitalization of downtown and the riverfront.

Remediation work

The city owns the Rolfite property through condemnation, and remediation work has been done at the former industrial site with the help of federal funding, according to Lauretti.

Based on initial plans, Guedes plans to turn the existing Spongex mill building into 45 residential apartments, and construct a new 18,000-square-foot commercial building on the Rolfite land, close to the Housatonic River.

The new road would go in between the Spongex building and the new commercial building. The city would own the new roadway, including the land on which it sits.

Railway bridge, Chromium Process nearby

The riverfront Rolfite property borders the Spongex building to the north and the Housatonic Railroad freight line to the south, where there is a railroad bridge crossing the Housatonic River.

The Rolfite land is essentially across the road on Canal Street from the northern part of the Chromium Process property, which includes a vacant factory and also has environmental issues. The city now owns the 1-acre Chromium Process site, and is likely to demolish the old factory building in the near future.