By JEN CARDINES
The abandoned Beaton & Corbin property at 318 N. Main St. is scheduled to become a 13,000 square foot office space…after proper cleanup is conducted on-site.
The former plumbing manufacturing plant was abandoned in 1989, a fire struck on September 22, 2003 that destroyed most of the building, and the fire exposed asbestos insulation from the boiler room. The property has stood, abandoned and contaminated for nearly 30 years.
“It’s been abandoned,” said the town’s economic development coordinator Lou Perillo. “That’s part of what the problem is.”
The site has been an area of concern for decades, but not much has been done until the last two years. During the 1990s, the Department of Environmental Protection (now the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection) released a report prepared by state officials that examined site options. Inspectors looked at the outcomes for refurbishing the factory building or demolishing it, but the 2003 fire destroyed the building and stalled renovations.
For years, the parcel remained vacant and was not owned by any individual, business, or the town.
Now, town officials are moving toward a solution. A request for proposals (RFP) for an environmental assessment was issued by the Town of Southington and was due back earlier this week. Qualified licensed professionals are needed to gather the necessary information to complete a cleanup that meets Environmental Protection Agency standards.
Perillo said that the initial cleanup cost is estimated anywhere from $500,000 to $900,000. The cost is dependent on the level of contamination that is found during the examination.
“Contamination dictates the clean-up, which dictates the remediation,” he said.
The town has engaged the Connecticut Brownfield Land Bank (CTBLB) non-profit organization to manage the project. CTBLB is working with the preferred developer, Mark Lovely, and Southington to create an application for the Abandoned Brownfield Cleanup program. The town sold the property tax liens in 2015, which were awarded to Lovely through a public bid.
“The heart of the matter is that there’s a liability for environmental problems on abandoned sites like this,” CTBLB president Arthur Bogen said. “We’re willing to help the municipality resolve that liability.”
Southington was one of 16 Connecticut municipalities to receive a grant under the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) Brownfield Remediation Program last year. With the help of CTBLB, the town was awarded $400,000 from this grant to demolish and remediate the site for redevelopment as commercial office space.
Additionally, both the developer and the Town of Southington will front $150,000. The 2015-16 and 2016-17 budgets each included $75,000 in order to fund the town’s part of the bill. Any additional costs that accumulate will be paid for by Lovely, so the town will give him a 10-year tax abatement on the property.
“This strategy makes it worthwhile,” Perillo said.
For nearly three decades the town saw no income from the empty space, but tax revenue is seen in the future when businesses settle into the new building. Accrued cleanup costs are more than what the parcel is worth, but officials hope to turn a profit over the next decade.
“The remediation is significantly greater than the real estate value,” Perillo said. However, he believes that establishing the old Beaton & Corbin site into commercial use will generate property tax and can also increase the value of nearby properties.
Preliminary site plans were created, but are subject to change depending on where contamination is found. Areas that contained heavy amounts of contaminants will become the parking lot because pavement will serve as a final barrier once the cleanup is finished.
Perillo said that he doesn’t expect the rail-trail behind the property to be disrupted during the clean-up or construction.
“The railroad legally dissected the property into two separate sites, which is helpful,” he said. Therefore, the trail does not have to be touched because it is part of the adjacent land parcel.
For more information, visit www.southington.org/beatoncorbin or call the economic development office at (860) 276-6297.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Jen Cardines, email her at JCardines@SouthingtonObserver.com.