Now that the long process of relocating all the residents from Meriden’s Mills Memorial Apartments is finally complete … now that the city has a comprehensive flood-control plan that specifies that the apartments must be demolished … now that the city has a signed contract with Pennrose Properties to develop the land adjacent to the Mills into mixed-income housing and commercial complexes, which are contingent on the demolition of the apartments … the Carabetta Companies have offered to buy the Mills buildings and convert them into senior and market-rate housing.
Why now? Certainly the idea of adaptive reuse of old structures can be attractive – there are old factories here and there that have been converted to loft apartments, art centers, and other uses. Sometimes it seems we’re too quick to tear down old structures that could serve new uses. And company CEO Joseph F. Carabetta says the Mills buildings are structurally sound, and that demolishing them "would be a complete waste of the taxpayer funds."
But why raise that question now? The time to consider such a decision is long past. It was long past back in September, when Carabetta first made the offer, and it was long past last week, when he wrote Mayor Kevin Scarpati urging him to reconsider. Besides, such decisions are not up to the mayor, so it was City Manager Guy Scaife who rejected the offer.
City Hall, of course, should always act in the city’s best interests, unaffected by emotions or personality conflicts. Still, there must be many in Meriden who would look askance at making such a deal with a company that has a $375 million lawsuit against the city over a controversial plan to build apartments atop Cathole Mountain.
If Carabetta were to take on the downtown project, and then it became stalled – as some of his past efforts have – Meriden would have another big eyesore looming over its future, just when the rehabilitation of the former hospital building on Cook Avenue is finally inching toward reality.
Bottom line: It just doesn’t make sense to revisit all those decisions about the Mills apartments and the downtown in general at this late date. The city has charted a course, contracts have been signed, funding is in place or in the pipeline.
This idea has no real merit.