Wallingford considers grant funding for project to reuse train station

WALLINGFORD — The town may pursue a state grant to boost plans for converting the historic former train station into commercial space.

The Town Council is scheduled to vote at its regular meeting Tuesday night to authorize Mayor William Dickinson Jr. to apply for a grant of up to $3 million in funding for exterior and interior work on the old train station. The project is needed to convert the building into a commercial center.

The grant, if awarded, would come from the state Department of Economic and Community Development CT Communities Challenge Grant program. The town would match a portion of the cost of the project, Dickinson said. 

The council meets at 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall in the Robert F. Parisi Council Chambers.

Included in the project are exterior roof repairs, exterior brick work, windows, and the reconfiguration of the interior of the building, Dickinson said. The building would have a better floor layout, along with improvements to the mechanical and electrical systems.

"There is a plan to improve it, provide a reuse of it for commercial purposes — could be a restaurant, could be a number of things," Dickinson said. "We need to renovate, fix up the outside, renovate the interior and hire a developer to oversee the marketing of the property and hopefully have that be an incentive for other properties to make investments and improvements."

The town is already making improvements to the parking lot next to the station, Dickinson said. "We want to infuse some energy and initiative and a new beginning for that area of downtown."

The building is between Quinnipiac Street and Hall Avenue and bordered by Johanna Manfreda Fishbein Park and the railroad tracks. The area around the station has been deemed an Incentive Housing Zone, and the Planning and Zoning Commission is considering a proposal to increase the density allowed in parts of the area to as many as 50 units per acre to provide downtown housing. The renovated train station could act as a hub of activity for the residents who live in those units, Dickinson said.

The 150-year-old train station is 13,480 square feet and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It closed as a train station in 1994 and has since been home to the school district's adult education program. Once the money is in place and plans move forward with the renovation, the Adult Ed program will be looking for a new home, according to Superintendent of Schools Danielle Bellizzi.

If and when the grant is approved, "a timeline will be established" that will include the relocation of the adult education program, she said in an email Monday.

"The adult ed would have to move out of that property, “ Dickinson said, “and we are confident we can find another location because they offer important services for the community so we are confident that that can be accomplished.”

"This is an opportunity to add on to the transit-oriented development efforts that have been made with the Incentive Housing Zone in that area and overlay districts that allow for greater density of use and population to rejuvenate that area downtown," Dickinson said. "It would be a commercial use there that would encourage foot traffic, it would encourage the economic vitality of the area and emphasize the walkability of that area and our goal to make it walkable." 

The deadline to apply for the grant is in October, and money is expected to be awarded in January, Dickinson said.  



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