Falling bricks bring Polish Club site’s future to the forefront
The city has put an “Unsafe Building” notice on part of the Kazimir Pulaski Club building due to a deteriorating brick wall and other concerns. (Photos by Brad Durrell)
Joseph Ballaro, Shelton’s chief building official, said a section of the exterior wall had “collapsed” and loose brick was observed elsewhere on the structure.
The club (commonly known as the “Polish Club”) has been ordered to get a report from a licensed structural engineer on the building’s structural integrity.
The three-story building is located at 42 Bridge Street, which is the closed side section of that road near the bridge from downtown Shelton to Derby.
The building’s damaged wall is on West Canal Street. Part of a sidewalk there has been closed off with police tape due to safety concerns. “To be on the safe side, I want them to get an engineer,” Ballaro said. “It’s all about public safety.”
He noted the partial wall collapse is near where people walk and park vehicles.
The space used by the Polish Club, which is closer to Howe Avenue, remains open. Ballaro said that part of the overall structure “is not an immediate hazard.”
Little progress on development plan
Most of the Polish Club building has been empty for many years. City officials have been encouraging a private developer, Angelo Melisi, to purchase the Polish Club building so it can be demolished to make way for a redevelopment project.
Melisi has received zoning approval to put a new retail and apartment building on a site that goes from Howe Avenue to West Canal Street, but has never purchased the Polish Club parcel needed for the project. The original idea was for Melisi to build, or find, a new location for the club.
Melisi currently owns the vacant lot at Howe Avenue and Bridge Street that is next to it, known to many as Kyle’s Corner.
His project was approved before the 2007-08 economic downturn, and Melisi spent many subsequent years securing state permission to gain ownership and shut down the side section of Bridge Street next to the club that also is needed for the project.
Club president to hold meeting
John Liptak, Kazimir Pulaski Club president, has met with Ballaro and Mayor Mark Lauretti on the situation.
Liptak plans to call an emergency club meeting, as soon as is practical, to decide how to proceed. This could include having the club hire a structural engineer.
“The building is safe as far as I know,” he said on Tuesday. “It’s just a couple of loose bricks on that side — it’s not the main building.”
A club meeting also could consider whether it’s time for the club to find another location, which Liptak referred to as “our other ventures.”
Liptak said Melisi has had many years to pursue his project but it has never materialized. “We’re looking forward to making progress,” he said.
He said Lauretti was cordial and helpful during their meeting. “He wants to work with us,” Liptak said of the mayor. “He wants to see things get done, and you can’t blame him.”
The mayor was willing to discuss with him a time frame for the Polish Club to relocate, Liptak said.
Lauretti said he is eager for something to happen on the Melisi site, and condemnation is a possibility as well as the need to seek a new developer.
The mayor wants Melisi to apply for zoning re-approval for his project due to the time lapse. He recently spoke to the Board of Aldermen about the situation in executive session.
Ballaro said there have been problems with the Polish Club building in the past, including with an exterior archway and roof overhang. Trees and vines can be seen growing in the brick.
He said club members have been trying to maintain the brick, “but they haven’t been able to keep up with the decay in the harder-to-reach spots.”
Ballaro said he wants to work with the club to rectify the problem, and not be confrontational.
The Pulaski name
To Liptak, it’s important that the Kazimir Pulaski Club continue as an organization. He said the club, known as a friendly place to drink, has a few hundred members.
“For the namesake, I’d like for us to be relocated and carry on the name,” he said.
Casimir Pulaski (the more common spelling of the first name is with a “C” and “s”) was a Polish nobleman and military hero who fought on the American side during the Revolutionary War. He is credited with reforming the American cavalry and also with saving George Washington’s life during a 1777 battle.
Pulaski was killed in the United States during a 1779 battle against the British.
Casimir Pulaski Day is celebrated annually in U.S. locations with high Polish populations, according to Liptak. “It’s like a holiday in some places,” he said.
Liptak also has been researching the history of the Polish Club building, which dates back to at least 1886. As with many old structures, it’s actually a few different buildings joined together.
Through the years, according to Liptak’s research, parts of the structure have been used as a railway station, tobacco/liquor store, blacksmith shop, market, inn, restaurant, plumbing shop, and hardware store.
The Kazimir Pulaski Club appears to have been founded in 1931.