Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Manchester company tapped to restore Hockanum Mill

By Jason Rowe
Journal Inquirer
May 17, 2006

VERNON - The Town Council has agreed to sell tax liens on the Hockanum Mill on West Main Street to a Manchester-based business partnership with plans to rehabilitate the deteriorating complex.

The council voted 11-0 Tuesday night to sell the tax liens to 1140 Development Co. LLC, a Manchester company owned by Frank N. Serignese and Angelo Giammarco, area residents and businessmen.

Serignese owns Manchester Moving and Storage.

Serignese and Giammarco were the highest of two bidders seeking the liens, bidding $88,100 for the 180,000 square feet of mill space, which is spread out among several buildings on two parcels along West Main Street.

The other bidder, Lee & Lamont Realty, a local development company, bid $67,800, Town Administrator Laurence R. Shaffer wrote in a May 11 memorandum to Mayor Ellen L. Marmer and Town Council members.

The owner of the mill, Shepard Realty Company Inc., owes the town $467,787 in back taxes dating to 1992, Shaffer said Tuesday night.

Once the sale of the tax liens is complete, 1140 Development is expected to conduct a foreclosure proceeding and take ownership of the property.

With the impending foreclosure of the property, officials hope to see the mill return to profitability and generate tax revenue for the town.

Once ownership of the property is in hand, 1140 Development officials said, they plan to rehabilitate the mill buildings and make them more economically viable.

"It's exactly the kind of energy and focus we need for the Hockanum Mill," Shaffer told the Town Council

In recent years, the town got court approval to have a receiver of rents put in place to manage the property and protect the town's tax interests.

That receiver, the Hockanum Industrial Development and Venture Corp., has managed to lease about 60 percent of the building and generate roughly $100,000 in gross income, officials said.

Some of that income has gone toward improvements and maintenance of the property while the town has secured grants to manage an environmental cleanup of the site.

The buildings at the Hockanum Mill site were constructed between 1850 and 1930.

"They've done an admirable job, given that all their effort has been done at no benefit to them," Shaffer said of the people who make up the Hockanum Industrial Development and Venture Corp.

Given the state of the building, Shaffer said, it made sense to sell the tax liens and allow the receiver to focus on its other local building, the Amerbelle Textiles mill on the corner of East Main and Brooklyn streets.

As for the Hockanum Mill's soon-to-be owners, 1140 Development already has rehabilitated a similar structure in Manchester.

In 2004, the company acquired the Lydall & Foulds paper mill, an 186,000-square-foot facility on Colonial Road, which had been shut down for three years.

The building had not been maintained and sat without heat and security since its abandonment.

Since acquiring the Lydall building, 1140 Development has repaired windows, doors, and roofs, and installed a sprinkler system, according to bid documents submitted to the town by the partnership.

The company also has worked with the state Department of Environmental Protection to clean up contamination on the site.

In his memo, Shaffer said the building is being leased to a number of small businesses, including engraving, heating and air conditioning, and woodworking shops.

Shaffer toured the building with Serignese and Giammarco last week.

At Tuesday's meeting, Serignese said his company intends to perform a similar renovation at the Hockanum Mill once it acquires the property.

He added that residents probably would notice a cleanup of the property, even before 1140 Development takes complete ownership.

"Our whole idea is to make it revenue generating," Serignese said. "We want to make it look better, and make it inviting."

Among potential renovations is the replacement of boarded windows adorned with painted murals depicting local landmarks.

The murals were created by Rockville High School students in the summer of 2004, and would be saved if 1140 Development decides to install glass windows, Mayor Ellen L. Marmer said Tuesday.

©Journal Inquirer 2006