BERLIN - The town of Berlin received a late Christmas gift Wednesday in the form of over $500,000 from Gov. Dannel Malloy for transit-oriented development.
Malloy announced the awarding of the $536,884 grant as part of a $15 million package to support transit projects in 11 different communities across the state.
“We’re very pleased to receive the funds,” said Berlin Economic Development Director Chris Edge.
The funds in Berlin will be used to acquire property at 861 Farmington Ave. and the rail spur property adjacent to the Berlin Steel site around the Berlin train station, explained Edge. The properties will compliment potential development efforts around the train station already underway by the town, Edge added.
“Berlin has been making great progress in the revitalization of our downtown area,” said House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, on Thursday. “This funding will assist the town in furthering their efforts to increase economic development and make Berlin’s downtown area an appealing place for businesses and community members, both old and new.”
The council hasn’t entered into an agreement to commit to development of the area, and isn’t bound to. However the town recently received five submissions to a Request for Qualifications issued in September to explore development on the town-owned 889, 903 and 913 Farmington Ave. sites.
The neighboring 861 Farmington Ave. site would allow for greater development of the area, which is planned for a mixed use residential and retail building development, said Edge.
Attaining the rail spur could help in creating a trail to connect a family neighborhood around Old Brickyard Lane to the potential development, Edge added, and the funds will also help with environmental cleanup efforts of the properties.
The development of the area was supported in a final report released in October by urban-planning consultants CivicMoxie after multiple public hearings.
In the report, found on letsdobizberlin.com, CivicMoxie also said the three Farmington Avenue sites were not suitable for a new police station, which was why the three properties were purchased by the town. The police station plan was shot down at referendum with a $21 million price tag and by the council with a scaled back $16 million version.
Edge and Mayor Mark Kaczynski have both said given the state’s financial turmoil and the town’s debt service on the high school that still rises for another year, constructing a new police station would not be a viable idea.
The report also suggested acquisition of the Berlin Steel site, located next to the train station, for even greater development. But these grant funds wouldn’t be used for that, Edge said, and other efforts would need to be made to acquire some form of the 13.7 acre property.
Edge said he hopes to have a developer from the submissions for the Farmington Avenue site proposed to the council by February.
Then internal discussions on the 861 Farmington Ave. and rail spur acquisitions need to occur before a timeline can be determined.
The council, which next meets on Jan. 2 at 7 p.m. in the Town Council Chambers of Town Hall, is not bound to enter into a development agreement while reviewing the submissions.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.