For going on 20 years, the vandalized and abandoned former Meriden-Wallingford Hospital building has loomed over its Cook Avenue neighborhood, depressing spirits as well as property values. Two attempts to redevelop the site have failed, but the city is now partnered with Diversified Financial Resources, working under the name One King LLC, to transform the seven-story, 327,000-square-foot ruin into a market-rate senior housing and commercial complex.
Despite the previous false starts, this deal seems to be going places, but progress will depend on when and how the site will be remediated, and how much it will cost, and who will pay what.
While much remains to be settled, a plan to use a $2 million grant and a $2 million loan for the cleanup received preliminary approval last week and is headed to the City Council. This is progress, and especially hopeful because the city has just been cited by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection for some old oil tanks that are still on the site and could entail some steep fines.
Another encouraging sign is that the city is at least in contact with MidState Medical Center about contributing to the cleanup cost. Economic Development Director Juliet Burdelski said the city has retained a law firm to negotiate with MidState on contributing $500,000 for soil remediation on the site. Discussions with MidState are ongoing but moving in a positive direction, Burdelski said.
That may not sound like much when the overall cleanup cost has been estimated at $5 million, but it is better than nothing. In the past, the city has contacted MidState to assert the hospital’s responsibility for cleaup costs. But in 2014 the hospital (now part of Hartford HealthCare) took the position that no one could have predicted that the original developer would go bankrupt and that the site would still be such a mess “15 years after it was sold.”
For many folks in town, this whole history has left a bad taste, and half a million dollars from MidState is not going to take that away.
But at least the parties are talking, and progress is creeping along.