Southington site could go from polluted factory to commercial plaza this year

Southington site could go from polluted factory to commercial plaza this year

reporter photo

SOUTHINGTON — A polluted factory site closed since 1989 could see life again this year as a local developer plans a commercial plaza for the North Main Street property.

Through a complex deal signed Tuesday involving the town, the state, a non-profit and builder Mark Lovley, the property could go from contaminated and encumbered with tax liens to a tax-generating, developed property.

The former plumbing fixtures factory location has been a focus for town Economic Development Director Lou Perillo. The severe contamination meant most investors wouldn’t touch the 1.65-acre property. Remediation costs exceeded the land’s value as well.

“This is one of the most challenging economic development activities I’ve ever really faced,” Perillo said. “There’s so much contamination on such a small site and it’s so upside down” financially.

Rendering of a commercial building planned for a polluted factory site on North Main Street in Southington | Provided by Mark Lovley

The abandoned Beaton & Corbin factory caught fire in 2003. Industrial processes, such as copper plating, caused contamination that will cost at least $1.1 million to clean up.

The deal

The defunct company still has the title to the property, although the town has tax and sewer liens on it. Under the agreement, the town will sell those liens to the Connecticut Brownfield Land Bank, a nonprofit group, for $1.

The land bank will foreclose on the property, clearing the title and selling the property to Lovley for $1. While a developer might be wary about taking on a heavily polluted property without a clean title, the land bank has no assets and isn’t an attractive target for legal action.

“Nobody could really come after them,” Lovley said.

Under the agreement, Lovley then has to develop the property.

The funding

All the parties involved are paying something toward cleaning up the land, which will involve removing contaminated dirt and oil storage tanks.

The EPA is loaning Lovley $400,000 for the cleanup. The town is putting $150,000 into the deal, a sum that’s mostly been spent already on testing and initial cleanup.

"This is one of the most challenging economic development activities I’ve ever really faced."

-Lou Perillo

Arthur Bogen, president of the land bank, pushed for state legislation that created a contaminated site grant that will provide $400,000 to the Beaton & Corbin project.

Lovley is responsible for at least $150,000 toward the cleanup and will also have to pay for any unexpected costs. He’ll receive a tax abatement for any money spent above the $150,000 on cleanup.

When the town was looking for developers six years ago, Lovley was the only one interested.

The cleanup

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the EPA will oversee and certify the cleanup efforts, according to the agreement. The town may install monitoring wells on the property and will be responsible for maintaining them.

Perillo said state and federal environmental experts will determine how much soil or building materials need to be removed and what can be buried and paved over. Development will be determined in part by where the worst pollution is on the site, since some areas can be safely capped with asphalt and used for parking.

A collapsed structure on the former Beaton & Corbin factory site on North Main Street in Southington. | Dave Zajac, Record-Journal

The work will also include removing an underground gasoline tank and above-ground fuel oil tanks. Perillo said those tanks put urgency on the project. If they leaked, the contamination would be even worse and cleanup even more expensive.

Plans for professional offices

Lovley said he hopes to start construction this fall and said he’ll go for a site plan in March. He’s planning about 13,000 square feet of commercial space in one or two buildings.

“We’re already talking to some tenants,” Lovley said. “We’re looking for medical and professional offices.”

The deal is the first of its kind in the state. Lovley said it was a long process but a “really good joint effort” with the land bank and town.

“Every time we turn around there have been little surprises that came up, but we worked our way through them,” he said.
Twitter: @JBuchananRJ