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CT Construction Digest Monday September 18, 2023

Longshoremen’s union plans protest at State Pier in New London

Greg Smith

New London ― The union representing the longshoremen working at State Pier plan a demonstration here over jobs related to work for the offshore wind industry.

The International Longshoremen’’s Association has notified its members of a “Day of Action,” planned for Sept. 20 against Danish wind company Ørsted as the union pushes for an expansion of its work at the pier, which is being used for the staging and assembly of wind turbine components associated with Ørsted and Eversource’s South Fork Wind project.

Longshoremen were hired to unload the wind turbine components but the union also seeks jobs running the cranes and heavy transport vehicles that move the components around the pier. That work is overseen by wind turbine manufacturer Siemens Gamesa and subcontracted to members of a different union, the International Union of Operating Engineers.

Ørsted characterizes the union dispute as a jurisdictional issue between two unions.

A similar dispute led to protests and a temporary work stoppage earlier this year at the Marine Commerce Terminal in New Bedford, Mass., which is being used as a staging area for Vineyard Wind, an offshore wind farm being constructed by a joint venture between Avangrid and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners.

The International Longshoremen’s Association, in a Sept. 8 letter to members, said the “Ørsted Day of Action is to demonstrate against the largest wind developer in the world that has ignored ILA core work jurisdiction by assigning our traditional job functions to other workforces than the ILA.”

The letter is signed by ILA Assistant General Organizer Jim Paylor and International Vice President Peter Clark, who were appointed earlier this year to spearhead the union’s push to secure jurisdictions on offshore wind projects in states along the east coast.

The ILA also claims in its letter that Ørsted has ignored repeated requests for training for members. It is unclear where the “peaceful demonstrations” will take place but union members participating are asked not impede any port operations.

An Ørsted spokesperson said negotiations are ongoing with the union.

“Union labor is central to our work to stand up a new American clean energy industry. Our projects are already creating hundreds of local union jobs, including key roles for the International Longshoremen’s Association handling vessel cargo for South Fork Wind at New London State Pier,” Stephanie Francoeur, spokespeson for Ørsted, said in a statement.

“We’re hopeful for a swift resolution of the unions’ jurisdictional issue. In the meantime, we’re keeping South Fork Wind’s construction on-track,” she said.

Connecticut Port Authority Executive Director Ulysses Hammond, whose agency owns the pier and is overseeing the $300 million pier upgrade project, said the negotiations involve Ørsted, port operator Gateway and Siemens Gamesa.

Hammond has said about three dozen longshoremen are enlisted for work at the pier, offloading cargo when a vessel comes in.

Jim Dillman, president of Enstructure Northeast and Gulf Coast, the parent company of State Pier operator Gateway Terminal, indicated in a statement that he is hopeful for a resolution.

“Gateway New London has a strong relationship with the ILA and we remain committed to working together to deliver best-in-class marine terminal services to our customers,” Dillman said.

Dillman also said Gateway and the ILA are working together to implement a “robust training program to ensure that the ILA skilled labor is properly credentialed for (self-propelled modular transport) and crane operations.”

That works includes approximately 10 jobs, depending on the size of the operation, he said.

A representative from the ILA did not respond to calls and emails from The Day.

CT's plan to widen Danbury's I-84 keeps options open for traffic fixes at exits 5, 6

Rob Ryser

 DANBURY — The long range plan to bring Interstate 84 into the 21st century with three lanes in both directions from exits 3 through 8 is moving to the next review stage after engineers decided to fix traffic snarls on the west side and the east end with new ramps and new roads.

But what state transportation officials will do about backups at exits 5 and 6 that feed the city’s downtown and hospital districts is an open discussion — with three alternatives that engineers plan to keep on the table while the project undergoes environmental review.

“We looked at these three (options) and realized that all three of these serve a different function in the center — we’ve got North Street and Main Street and Tamarack Avenue and Great Plains Road,” said Rick Black, an environmental consultant with the I-84 project, during a meeting earlier this year. “So once we get into the (environmental) analysis we will look in much greater detail at how we can address these different functions in the center.”

Two of the options the state Department of Transportation is considering to improve the center section of I-84 that serves the downtown would create direct access to Danbury Hospital via Tamarack Avenue or Great Plains Road. The third option, which the DOT is keeping open after conversations with Danbury officials, is to build a road parallel to I-84 that would lead to Main Street and North Street, and to build a ramp from North Street onto I-84 westbound.

“We are going to be taking these concepts out to the public for additional feedback and review sometime in the fall or winter, and we plan to issue a final report in early 2024,” said Shannon Burnham, the state DOT’s strategic communications manager, on Friday.

The open discussion about improvements to I-84 between exits 5 and 6 is continuing as the DOT prepares for the next stage of environmental review, which will take years to complete, according to its timeline. The overall project, which is not funded and is expected to cost billions, would not begin construction until the early 2030s. It would not be complete until the mid-2040s.

At stake is the safety and efficiency of an 8-mile section of highway used by at least 85,000 motorists daily, where congestion and lane-changing contribute to one or more interstate accidents each day in Danbury, according to the DOT.

Meanwhile, Danbury continues to grow at one of the fastest rates in the state, racing to keep up with its own infrastructure needs.

Among the problems with the 1961 interstate are peak hour delays that run from 15-to-45 minutes, due in part to highway curvatures that reduce sight lines and cause motorists to ride their brakes, the DOT says.

“If you’re going 84 eastbound you have a sight line problem as you are going toward Exit 4,” said Sharat Kalluri, a consulting project engineer, during a public meeting in the spring. “There are plans that would make I-84 much better in terms of the speed it’s made for.”

Progress on the early planning stages for I-84’s future, which is covered by $17.5 million in state funding, follows headlines in August when the DOT floated driving on the shoulder as one of several “early action” projects that could be in place in a few years instead of a few decades to ease highway congestion and improve Danbury’s quality of life.

Among those early action projects was configuring shoulders to reduce rush hour backups at Main and North streets, and to realign ramps at the Exit 8 interchange with Route 6 and Newtown Road to “put traffic closer to where it wants to go.” The projects could be implemented by 2027-2028, Kalluri said.

The future of I-84

The I-84 of the future as engineers envision it today would have at least three travel lanes in both directions between the Route 7 interchange on the west side near Danbury Fair mall and the Route 7 interchange on the east end near AMC Danbury 16.

Although early concepts to straighten I-84’s curves to improve travel flow proved to be more ambitious than practical, some minor straightening of the highway is planned.

“The ramps are going to be switched from the left-hand side to the right-hand side between interchanges at Exit 3 and Exit 7, and there are some slight shifts in alignment at interchange 3 and interchange 7 to get better curves,” Kalluri said. “This project is going to be looking at replacing all the bridge structures, too.”

On the west side, engineers believe they have a long-term solution to congestion problems between exits 3 and 4. The plan is to build a ramp from I-84 to Segar Street.

“A median barrier is going to be installed along I-84 to prevent any I-84 traffic to get to Lake Avenue,” Kalluri said. “(Traffic) would have to use Segar Street to get to Lake Avenue. The Route 7 traffic would still be able to use Exit 4.”

Similarly on the east end, engineers have a plan to cut down on congestion between exits 7 and 8. The plan is to add roads parallel to I-84 eastbound and I-84 westbound to channel Route 7 and Newtown Road traffic getting on and off the highway.

The most fluid part of the emerging I-84 master plan is at exits 5 and 6. Expect to hear more clarity about the DOT’s vision the deeper the plan gets into environmental review.

“We are in a planning stage right now, but once these concepts move into the (environmental review) stage and we actually get about 30 percent of the design of the potential concept combinations and alternatives, at that point we might be talking about a piece of one concept and tying it in with a piece of another concept,” said Black, the environmental consultant. “There is a lot of potential still for discussions with the public on how best to center area or any area of the study.”

Bridgeport schools to merge as part of $80M renovation plan

Richard Chumney

BRIDGEPORT — City school officials plan to merge Skane School with the nearby John Winthrop School as part of a multi-million dollar effort that will also include renovations to the aging Winthrop building.  

The school system intends to construct a new wing at Winthrop to house the Skane program, an early childhood education center that serves nearly 200 special needs students younger than 5-years-old.  

Jorge Garcia, a district official who oversees building operations and facilities planning, said the project is a priority for the school system because the Madison Avenue building where Skane is now located has outlived its usefulness and does not have the proper electrical power to handle new technology. 

“Currently, we are in a building that is not adequate for the program that we are trying to run there,” Garcia said. “The building is on its last leg, the infrastructure is failing. So, this will solve that issue.”

In a meeting with the school board’s health, safety and facilities committee this week, Garcia said the Skane building, which was constructed in 1953 and last renovated in 1980, is also at capacity. He noted the school’s stage has been converted into classrooms and a storage room is being used as an assistant principal's office.

The construction project, which could begin as soon as 2025, is expected to cost around $80 million, according to city finance officials. The City Council has agreed to spend $17.8 million on the effort while the state will shoulder the rest of the burden. 

Garcia said the preliminary plans include building a wing with up to 10 classrooms at Winthrop, an Eckart Street school that is attended by nearly 600 students. He said the addition will be laid out in a way that takes into account the needs of Skane’s specialized program. 

“There will be some shared space, obviously, with the combination of both buildings. But we’re going to be thoughtful in how we design this building,” he said. “We’re going to make sure there’s outreach. We’re going to make sure that department heads and educators have a voice here.” 

In addition to building a new wing, the district is planning to renovate much of Winthrop, a 68-year-old building that has also fallen into disrepair like the Skane campus. Garcia said the school currently does not have a forced ventilation system and that the pavement at the site is coming apart. Last year, the district was forced to temporarily close the school after the boilers broke down and leaked water. 

“It's typical of 1950s constructions. It's well-built. The bones are there,” Garcia said. “It’s just that the infrastructure is past its useful life.”  

Garcia said the renovation work will make the building compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act for the first time in its history. The school is one of five in the city that still do not satisfy all of the requirements of the law, which was passed in 1990. 

The merger is one of two ongoing efforts to house multiple schools under one roof. In May, the city broke ground on the new Bassick High School, a $129 million facility near Seaside Park that will also be the home to the Bridgeport Military Academy when it opens in the fall of 2025. 

At the time it was announced, the decision to relocate BMA to the new Bassick site was met with pushback from some parents and students who said they were concerned it would be inappropriate to locate the two district programs under one roof. 

Thomas Gaudett, Mayor Joe Ganim’s deputy chief of staff, has said Skane will still have a district identity despite the merger. Though both programs will be in one building, he said the two schools will operate separately. 

“There is absolutely zero proposal to get rid of Skane School,” he said. “They’re just going to be co-located on the same site and funded through the same legislative mechanism in Hartford.”  

The state funds for the Skane and Winthrop merger were secured by state Rep. Marcus Brown who said he sought the money after meeting with school officials to learn which buildings were the most in need of repairs. After convincing legislative leaders of the need for a renovation, lawmakers agreed to extend a deadline that will allow the city to move forward with the project. 

“We didn’t know it was official until maybe two weeks before the session ended,” Brown said. 

The building of a new wing and wider renovation is expected to take up to 24 months to complete. After the construction is finished, Garcia said the city would likely sell the Skane building. Online property records show the single-story structure and land were valued last year at a little more than $4.5 million. 

Crystal Mall seen as suitable for mix of commercial, residential development

Brian Hallenbeck

A dying mall near the junction of two interstates and within hailing distance of a transportation hub might be ripe for what planners call “repurposing.”

If that mall is in a growing, well-populated area that’s short on housing, particularly affordable housing, that repurposing might involve a “highest and best use” that includes a mix of commercial and residential components.

Count Waterford First Selectman Rob Brule among those who believe Crystal Mall is such a mall.

“Given the demographics, the location ― it's an incredible location ― near public transportation, I-95, I-395,” Brule said early last week. “If we can have a vision of what we want there, I think the Planning and Zoning Commission would entertain quite a few things.”

He said the mall’s vast parking lots need to be “greened up” and there needs to be a focus on “recreation for kids and families.” He said the site is “perfect” for affordable housing.

Brule made the comments during an interview days before the outcome of a change in Crystal Mall’s ownership became known. A deed filed Thursday with the town clerk’s office revealed Namdar Realty Group, a Great Neck, N.Y., real estate investment firm with a penchant for acquiring struggling properties, had landed Crystal Mall at auction last month, submitting a winning bid of more than $9.5 million.

Namdar Realty’s news clippings indicate it and its partner, Mason Asset Management, also of Great Neck, have little interest in repurposing the malls they acquire. As of Friday, Namdar representatives had yet to discuss their intentions with town officials.

Neither Brule nor Namdar responded Friday to requests for comment.

“Economically, what they’re doing makes sense,” John Clapp, professor emeritus of real estate at the University of Connecticut, said of Namdar. “Bottom fishing, they get in at a very good price for the amount of real estate they’re getting. They keep the restaurants open, a few stores, then they go to the town to get a reduction in taxes so they can afford to hold onto it, waiting for something good to happen.”

Since 2019, Namdar, which owns more than 60 U.S. malls, has acquired three in Connecticut, in Enfield, Meriden and Trumbull, and has continued to operate them as malls.

If Waterford has a plan of development for Crystal Mall, the town eventually may have to buy the property itself to pursue the plan, Clapp said, as the City of East Hartford did in acquiring an abandoned Showcase Cinemas on Interstate 84, once pitched as a casino site.

Clapp, who has studied and written extensively about the subject, said he expects malls, battered by consumers’ turn to online shopping and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, will continue to decline, especially enclosed ones like Crystal Mall, which he said need to generate lots of traffic to pay heating and air-conditioning costs.

“Open-air malls do a lot better,” Clapp said.

De-malling the mall

In Woburn, Mass., a city of 42,000 residents nine miles north of Boston, a mall repurposing has become something of a model for communities elsewhere.

The Woburn Mall, about the same vintage as the 39-year-old Crystal Mall and less than half its size, was “well past its prime,” Mayor Scott Galvin said in an interview, when Edens, a national real estate owner, operator and developer, approached the city with a plan to turn the mall into Woburn Village, a mix of commercial and residential development. Backed by the City Council, the transformation advanced apace, starting with Edens’ 2017 acquisition of the site in a direct sale for $44 million.

Ground was broken in 2019 and, despite the pandemic, construction was largely completed by the end of 2021. By last summer, virtually everything was in place.

In a 2022 report, “Rethinking the Retail Strip,” the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, a regional planning agency that studied more than 3,000 strip malls and shopping centers in Greater Boston, put it this way:

“Woburn, like many other cities, was facing a host of other pressures (besides changing consumer tastes): increasing housing demand, a need to grow the tax base, and a desire for more placemaking and character. The mall’s decline was not helping. It was no longer the financial asset for the City that it had been, and it was devolving into an eyesore.”

Today, Woburn Village is an attractive mix of commercial space ― including connected retail stores as well as freestanding restaurants, a bank branch and other buildings that help break up the parking lot ― green space and two six-story apartment buildings containing 350 rental units, 25% of which are categorized as affordable. A half-dozen stores are attached to the apartments. Commuter rail is a mile-and-a-quarter away.

Market Basket, a popular local grocery chain, and a T.J. Maxx/HomeGoods store, two Woburn Mall holdovers, anchor the retail portion of the property.

Mark Vaughan, an attorney for Edens, said the apartments at Woburn Village supply customers for the stores and restaurants.

“Restaurants have become the equivalent of new (mall) anchors,” Vaughan said. “With the slowdown in the apparel and retail businesses, restaurants have become the new draw. They bring in a lot of activity.”

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, the traffic at Woburn Village’s Tavern in the Square restaurant was brisk. The mall parking lot was nearly full.

The repurposing involved a fair amount of demolition. The retail portion was rebuilt without any interior corridor, a staple of traditional malls. Each of the stores is only accessible from the outside.

Galvin and Tina Cassidy, Woburn’s planning board director, said the project has been a resounding success, having encountered little opposition, aside from traffic concerns, during the permitting and approval processes, and proving to be a boon to the city’s housing stock and tax base.

Galvin said the mall, valued at $40 million in the city’s 2017 fiscal year, was valued at about $80 million in fiscal 2023, a figure he said could eventually go as high as $85 million to $90 million.

“For us, it’s worked out really well,” Galvin said of the repurposing. “We’re in a good location, where I-93 and I-95 meet. We have a lot of amenities, good schools, a low tax rate …”

If there’s been a downside, it’s that families with children who’ve settled in the Woburn Village apartments have had a greater-than-expected impact on school enrollment, Cassidy said, since many of the tenants are new to Woburn.

Ryan Leeming, Edens’ vice president of development and construction, said Woburn Village was the product of a three-way partnership among Edens, the city and the state, whose 2004 Smart Growth Zoning Overlay District program, known as “Chapter 40R,” encourages municipalities to create dense residential or mixed-use zoning districts for developments that include a high percentage of affordable housing units.

By taking advantage of the program, Woburn qualified for $1.4 million in incentive payments from the state. And, under state law, because 25% of Woburn Village’s 350 rental units are deemed affordable, the city can apply all of the units against the requirement that 10% of the city’s housing stock be affordable.

Cassidy said that since 2012, Woburn has added close to 1,500 residential rental units, counting those built, those under construction and those for which permits have been approved. The 350 units at Woburn Village put the city over the 10% threshold. The city now stands at 11.5%.

Tenants of the affordable units at Woburn Village ― AvalonBay Communities developed and owns the residential component ― must have incomes of less than 80% of the area median income, which for Woburn is $46,000 for an individual and $92,000 for a household, according to Cassidy. Affordable monthly rents for one-bedroom apartments at Woburn Village exceed $2,000.

Despite the success of Woburn Village, Leeming, the Edens executive, is not ready to sound the traditional mall’s death knell.

“Malls are not obsolete,” he said. “Plenty of traditional malls are successful in places all over the world. But they don’t work everywhere. I don’t think retail is dying by any means. It’s evolving.”

Local Developer Plans 189-Unit Apartment Complex With Affordable Units in Old Lyme

Cate Hewitt

OLD LYME — Three years after proposing an apartment complex requiring a tie-in to sewers, Mark Diebolt is back with an affordable housing project relying instead on septic.  

The state’s affordable housing statute allows developers to largely bypass local zoning approvals in towns where less than 10 percent of the housing stock qualifies as affordable. According to the 2022 Housing Appeals List, 1.57 percent of Old Lyme’s housing stock meets state rules of affordability.

Diebolt is planning six buildings of 30 to 32 units each. Of the total 189 units, 57 would be affordable for people earning 50, 60 or 80 percent of the area median income, which was $113,889 in 2021, according to census data

The buildings would be built on Diebolt’s 20.6-acre parcel at 49 Hatchetts Hill Road and a 16.25-acre adjoining parcel at 54-6 Four Mile River Road that he recently purchased and where he plans some of the septic.

Diebolt, engineer Seamus Moran and investors from Port One Company presented the outlines of the proposal to the Planning Commission during an informal discussion on Thursday, in part to secure the commission’s approval to subdivide the two existing lots into six lots to fulfill state septic requirements.

The Hatchetts Hill property was zoned for multifamily use under a special exception in 2005 when a developer purchased the land from Diebolt with plans to build 16 luxury condos. That project was never built and Diebolt eventually regained ownership.  

Peter Bartash, CEO of Port One Company and a licensed architect, told the commission that the location for the project – in a mixed industrial and residential setting with easy access to the highway – would have very little impact on the town. 

“It really stood out to us that we could look at doing something that has a little bit larger scale here from an overall project perspective without compromising the character integrity of the town,” he said. 

Moran told the commission that subdivision was the first step in moving the project forward. 

He said that testing of the soil in the 54-6 Four Mile River Road parcel showed it was “very nice sand and gravel that would be great for septic systems,” and he estimated that each building would need 7,500 gallons of sewage capacity a day, the limit allowed for approval by Ledge Light and the Department of Health. 

Moran said that except for the septic area, the lower property would be dedicated open space with walking trails.

Commission member Jim Lampos questioned whether the well on the site could provide sufficient water for the residents.  

Moran acknowledged that a well on site produces 50 gallons per minute, but said the buildings would have water storage tanks to meet demand at peak flow. 

He also emphasized that the design was in its early conceptual phase. “We’re at about two and a half percent of the design.”

Bartash said the construction is planned for two phases over a two or three year period, first with 60 units closer to the Hatchetts Hill Road entrance, followed by 129 units in the second phase built toward the back of the parcel. 

The site is close to a pump station for the East Lyme sewer system, but Diebolt was unable to gain permission in 2020 to use 50,000 gallons of 300,000 gallons designated for the town and the beach communities in an agreement with New London. The beach community sewer project, estimated at $14.1 million to $21.1 million, is still on hold while the town awaits word on a $17 million forgivable loan from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story stated that Diebolt was unable to gain permission from the Old Lyme Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA) to use 50,000 gallons of 300,000 gallons designated for the town and the beach communities, but the WPCA did not have the authority to grant that permission due to its agreements. Also, “Four Mile Creek Road” has been corrected to “Four Mile River Road.” This story has been updated.

Developer Randy Salvatore eyes major apartment conversion of RPI's former Hartford campus

Michael Puffer

With efforts to build blocks of apartments around Hartford’s Dunkin’ Park stymied by ongoing litigation, developer Randy Salvatore hopes to redirect millions in public financing to a 369-unit apartment redevelopment of the former Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute campus on Windsor Street.

The 12.7-acre site was put on the market earlier this year. The campus sits just north of the minor-league ballpark, but is not part of a cluster of city-owned lots around the stadium that had been committed to a development – known as North Crossing – of roughly 1,000 apartments by Salvatore’s RMS Cos.

The city picked RMS to develop the North Crossing properties after it fired Middletown developer Centerplan Cos. from ongoing construction of the ballpark. Centerplan was also supposed to develop the vacant lots around the ballpark.

RMS opened its first, 270-unit apartment building off the southeast corner of the ballpark last year and had planned to immediately begin work on another apartment building and attached parking garage on a nearby city-owned parcel. Those plans were halted after the Connecticut Supreme Court ordered a new trial on a lawsuit Centerplan had filed against the city for wrongful termination. 

Centerplan originally lost the lawsuit, but appealed the lower court’s decision. It’s seeking the rights to redevelop the remaining vacant parcels within North Crossing and take control of the building already completed by Salvatore.

Given the legal issues, Salvatore is now asking the Capital Region Development Authority to allow him to tap a $13.6 million low-interest loan approved for the second phase of North Crossing for the redevelopment of the RPI property. 

The CRDA will also consider steering an additional $3 million loan toward the effort.

Salvatore, on Friday, said he plans to build out the RPI campus in phases, beginning with the construction of a 269-unit, market-rate apartment building and a parking garage, much like the existing “Pennant Building.”

That would be followed by construction of a 100-unit apartment building on the same 3-acre corner of the property.  

It is essentially taking the second phase of the halted North Crossing development and moving it to a new location, he said. 

“The idea is to jump-start what we were planning on building on Parcel B over to this site and make it a continuation of the North Crossing development,” Salvatore said. 
Salvatore said he is under contract on the RPI campus and expects to close within 60 days, provided he can secure funding through CRDA and achieve zoning relief needed for the project. 

“There are some loose ends, but we have every expectation to be able to execute and move forward,” Salvatore said. 

The development proposed so far still leaves plenty of remaining room to build on the RPI campus. Salvatore said he has no definite plans yet for the extra space, but is considering mixed-use development.

“We continue to be really bullish about downtown Hartford and that’s why we continue to move forward to expand there,” Salvatore said.  

CT developer eyes possible Winsted factory redevelopment


WINSTED — A Norwalk developer is interested in buying and redeveloping the massive old factory that runs parallel to Main Street from Elm Street to the area of Mario’s Tuscany Grill, 560 Main St.

The 61,200-square-foot, five-story, 19th-century brick building was once home to businesses such as Winsted Furniture and New England Knitting.

Bill Krause, the developer, confirmed last week he has a purchase-and-sales agreement with the current owners, known collectively as 153 LLC. But he also said he is still in the early stages of figuring out whether “the numbers” will work out.

“This is a long, multifaceted process to get all these different approvals,” he said. “There’s going to be a bunch of different funding sources, timelines and requirements, so there’s a lot of moving parts.”

A former member of the state Historical Commission, Krause said he has been redeveloping historic buildings for 20 years. He said a business partner told him about the building, which has an address of 10 Bridge St.

“I think it’s a great building,” he said. “I think Winsted is going in a great direction. I think it has potential.”

Krause said conceptually he envisions the building housing about 50 “market-value” apartments on floors two through five, with a restaurant or retail space on the first floor.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” he said. “We have a plan that we think is feasible, but there are a lot of pieces that need to come together.”

One of those pieces is remediating contaminants inside and outside the building, such as oil mixed with lead from a former grinding operation in a machine shop, Krause said. He said eliminating the contaminants is “definitely doable.”

The building is undergoing an environmental review, and to help pay for the next phase of it, the town has won a $128,500 brownfields grant from the state Department of Economic and Community Development. The Board of Selectmen on Sept. 5 unanimously voted to authorize the acceptance of the funds.

Before the vote, Selectmen Jack Bourque and A. Candy Perez expressed their concern about spending money on a site where nothing could happen again. The building, constructed in 1887, has been vacant since 2004.

“It’s such a difficult site,” Bourque said. “We’ve had so many people take a look at it, start there and not be able to finish it. I don’t want to be in a situation where we have something started and money given out to them, and then not be completed.”

Town Manager Joshua S. Kelly countered that no developer has gone further in the process than Krause has in getting the property cleaned up for a possible redevelopment. But if he does back out, the town will not lose any money because the grant does not require a town match and it will retain the land records pertaining to the project. That way, another developer can pick up where Kraus left off.

“I am very optimistic,” Kelly said. “Bill has been a wonderful partner – somebody who I know has the vision, means, knowledge and past experience to make this happen.”