SOUTHINGTON – The Town Council had high praise and a letter of support for a local developer’s plan to renovate the former school and Board of Education offices on Beecher Street.
The letter could help Florian Properties, owned by Mat Florian, secure state grants to help fund a renovation of the historic school building at 49 Beecher St. into housing and offices.
Justin French, property manager for Florian Properties, told the council Monday that the company was looking to preserve as many historic elements as possible. There is state money available for the work and part of the application requires a letter of support from town government.
The cost to renovate the former school, built more than 100 years ago, complicated town efforts to sell the building to a developer.
Councilors were pleased that Florian was going to preserve the building as part of a larger condominium development.
“We appreciate the effort to maintain the historical integrity of the building,” said Chris Palmieri, council chairman and a Democrat. “Often times people want to tear down and start from scratch.”
Palmieri said he was impressed with Florian’s restoration work on other prominent buildings, such as 98 Main St. and the former town offices in the Gura building that now house the Southington Community Cultural Arts.
“It’s incredible, the work that you do,” he said.
The letter of support passed unanimously Monday night.
“It’s a beautiful plan and I know it’s going to be a great addition to that neighborhood,” said Victoria Triano, council minority leader and a Republican.
After moving school district offices to the John Weichsel Municipal Center on North Main Street, the town put the Beecher Street building for sale in 2012. The property nearly sold for $220,000 – well under the initial $400,000 asking price - to William Martin and Ralph Monti of Beecher St. LLC, who planned to renovate the building to include 38 reduced-rent senior housing apartments.
Martin and Monti’s bid in 2013 narrowly edged out Florian’s offer of $200,000 to buy the building. Faced with strong neighborhood opposition to the project and conflict among councilors over the sale, however, the council backed away from the deal.
In 2014, councilors supported the sale of the building to Florian for $200,000 with a stipulation that no more than 12 apartments be built in the former school.
Florian received Planning and Zoning approval three years ago for a plan that includes renovating the school building into housing and adding two other residential buildings on Water and Beecher Streets, for a total of 22 condos.