SOUTHINGTON — After 15 years of plans but little progress, town leaders are hopeful but wary about an auction for the Greenway Commons site.
Meridian Development Partners is putting the 14-acre downtown property up for auction. Bids are due by June 18.
The residential/commercial project was approved two years before the 2008 recession. Since then Meridian has modified the plan, which includes 245 rental units and 22,000 square feet of commercial space.
Town Council Chairwoman Victoria Triano said a new owner is going to have to abide by the approved plan.
“If they think they’re going to put in low-end condos, if they think they’re going to put in affordable housing, we’re going to have to talk about that,” she said of the new owner. “That is a very critical piece of property. We’ve been waiting a long time for responsible ownership and responsible construction. We haven’t seen that.”
Howard Schlesinger of Meridian feels the sale will provide new energy and resources to the project. Meridian has been trying to sell the property for years and has come close but never signed a deal.
The company has owned the former Ideal Forging plant since 2005. Meridian tore down the buildings and cleaned up much of the land which had been polluted by industrial chemicals.
Triano said the site, now a field, is an eyesore. The Republican said she hopes a new owner will understand the property is very visible.
“I’m just concerned about maintaining the integrity of our town,” she said.
Mike DelSanto, a Republican town councilor, was Planning and Zoning Commission chairman when Meridian modified its original plans. He recalled a meeting when company representatives asked to remove the commercial portion of the project entirely.
“I ended the meeting immediately,” DelSanto said. “The commercial has to be included. I hope whoever is interested in purchasing has that on their mind.”
Commercial space is important because it generates tax revenue for the town, DelSanto said.
The plans also changed from owner-occupied condominiums to luxury rentals.
“We were told granite, hardwood floors, beautiful space,” DelSanto said.
He’s hopeful that another developer will be able to make the vision a reality.
“We need to see something here besides dead grass and rusty fences,” DelSanto said.
Chris Palmieri, a Town Council Democrat and former chairman, said he was glad that the former factory buildings, also an eyesore, were demolished.
Since the town doesn’t own the property, there’s only so much town leaders can do other than encourage and promote development, according to Palmieri. The town can’t force Meridian to build.
“We can’t do anything to property that someone else owns,” he said.