By Lindsay Carey
Meridian Development will begin demolition of the old Ideal Forging buildings after the Apple Harvest Festival next month, a representative from the company announced at last week’s Southington Chamber of Commerce Celebrity Breakfast.
Howard Schlesinger, a founding principal of Meridian, said that they wanted to wait until after the Apple Harvest Festival, because they didn’t want to have demolition going on during a major event that attracts people from other towns into Southington. Schlesinger assured business owners, town politicians and residents at the breakfast with Gov. Dannel Malloy that his company is committed to seeing the Greenway Commons Project through.
“We have never left the site,” said Schlesinger. “We’ve continued to work hard to get this property back in place and get it to be something that’s beneficial to your community and we have remained in the commitment for what is now eight years.”
Meridian Development Partners purchased the land in 2007, planning to build 263 condominiums and some retail stores, under the name of Greenway Commons.
This initially excited business leaders and town officials about a potential for economic growth in the town through this project. However, the building of the Greenway Commons has been delayed for a number of years due to concerns about removing manufacturing chemicals from the old factory and the cost of the demolition.
Schlesinger said that Meridian has hired some environmental engineers from Stantec to manage the demolition and safely clear out any chemicals and oils still present.
As for financial assistance for the demolition, Meridian, with the help of state Rep. Joe Aresimowicz and former state Rep. Zeke Zalaski, was able to secure a $3 million grant from Gov. Malloy and with the town’s support was able to make the property a tax increment financing district.
Town Councilor Victoria Triano candidly questioned Schlesinger about the plan for the Greenway Commons project, including whether the condominiums and retail stores has remained the same.
Schlesinger responded by saying that the outcome of the project may turn out differently than the original plan.
“The reality is that our environment has changed,” said Schlesinger. “We’re working with the real estate people and with the community to figure out what we can do with that plan to make it work.”
He suggested that the project may turn into a senior facility, noting however, that the planning is still in the works.
Economic Development Coordinator Lou Perillo said that there have not been any formal changes made to the plan through the Planning and Zoning Committee. However, he added that if changes present themselves in the future it is likely due to changes in market conditions.
“The project that they are taking on is a difficult one. After the great recession of 2008, most real estate projects have been stalled or delayed,” said Perillo.
He said he is pleased that Meridian has stuck with Southington despite challenges.
“Right now our focus is to clean up the site, that’s our mission,” said Schlesinger.
Triano said though whatever is built there will be better than the old factory building, she suggested that the community be involved in this planning phase.
“I certainly hope that in that time that you’re looking at your plan, which now I’m hearing for the first time has changed, that there be some input from this community from those who were told one thing in 2007,” said Triano.
Schlesinger said that communication will be continuous moving forward, because he knows the support of the community is required for the project to be a success.
“We’re very excited about Greenway Commons,” said Chamber of Commerce President Art Secondo, at the event. “Those of us who’ve been around a long time just can’t wait to see what it’s going to look like when those buildings are down.”
Schlesinger predicted that the construction of the Greenway Commons will begin late spring.
By Lindsay Carey