MERIDEN — Not much has changed in the main lobby of the former Meriden Medical Center building on Cook Avenue since it closed 14 years ago. A few ceiling tiles have fallen to the ground and some debris is scattered, but even the wall chart listing the medical practitioners and their offices remains intact.
The same cannot be said for the rest of the 70,000 square-foot building. Just beyond the main lobby, furniture is toppled over, graffiti litters the walls, massive amounts of debris clog hallways, and portions of the ceiling have fallen to the floor. Most of the building is a far cry from what it once was as medical offices that complemented the nearby Meriden-Wallingford Hospital.
Despite the deterioration, two private development firms are interested in the four-story building at 116 Cook Ave. Representatives of one, Portchester, N.Y.-based POKO Partners, recently toured the building. Stamford-based JHM Group is interested in the adjacent Factory H site, in addition to some other long-vacant properties in downtown. It remains to be seen what plans for the property will call for, whether it means redeveloping the building or razing it and starting over, but officials are eager to hear plans.
Built in the late 1800s, the building appears to still be structurally sound. It was once a section of the International Silver Co. Factory H building, serving as offices for the company. When the factory was abandoned for a property on Research Parkway in the 1970s, the offices were also left empty.
Without sufficient office space, a group of doctors teamed up to discuss the possibility of renovating the building. They enlisted the help of well-known developer Joseph Carabetta and created a plan for a medical complex that would cover the 116 Cook Ave. and Factory H site. Although the Factory H site was never redeveloped, plans went forward for the medical offices.
The 116 Cook Ave. portion of the site was separated as its own property and after the remodeling, Carabetta sold it to 17 doctors in 1978. The doctors used the money they made from the building to pay for its expenses and mortgage. It served its purposed for several years, but when Meriden-Wallingford Hospital shut down, the doctors left the area as well. Many went to the newly built MidState Medical Center or other medical offices on Broad Street.
The building has gone through several property transfers since the offices closed in 2000. There were plans for offices or for a company headquarters at the building, before a Long Island businessman proposed a plan to put an upscale furniture showroom inside. None of the plans came to fruition.
Water damage hit a portion of the building, while another section suffered fire damage when a blaze ripped through the connected Factory H building. The city bought the building in 2010 for $700,000 in hopes of redeveloping it. Factory H has since been torn down and the site was remediated through state and federal funds.
Some site remediation will occur in the coming weeks when fuel tanks will be excavated from the ground, in addition to any contaminated soil around the tank. The city received a $200,000 grant for the work and the lowest bid, submitted by Bloomfield-based RED Technologies, was $83,812.50. Economic Development Director Juliet Burdelski said she is exploring the possibility of using the rest of the money toward cleaning out some of the building.
The city has also applied for a $2 million grant for environmental remediation of 116 Cook Ave. If obtained, the city would be able to have the inside and outside of the building remediated for the interested developers.
The future of the property remains uncertain, but City Manager Lawrence J. Kendzior said he prefers to hear from the interested developers about what their proposals would be. A plan drawn up a few years ago called for the property to be refurbished and to be turned into a combination of office, commercial and housing space.
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