Roosevelt Mills changes hands
By Jessica Ciparelli
Four years ago, a vision for Roosevelt Mills began in the mind of Westport developer Joseph Vallone. On Oct. 17, Vallone took title to the property on Route 74 and met with town and state leaders and others, including Department of Environmental Protection officials, who have helped get the project to the point that it's currently at.
"The reason why we are all here today is to take a moment and to acknowledge a milestone in this 1906 building," said Vallone, principal of Loom City Lofts, LLC, which now holds the title for the building.
The plan for the reinforced concrete mill building, that has long been an eyesore in town, includes residential and commercial development. Vallone plans to build 68 apartments, mostly one bedroom units, and four 2,500 square foot suites for office and retail space on the first floor of the structure. Vallone said the building ideally lends itself to an apartment set up, with 60' x 300' dimensions and high ceilings.
"This will have a major impact on the area," Vallone said.
Besides taking title of the building, much of the site cleanup has already taken place. Chlorinated solvents have been cleaned up, according to Vallone, and the coal ash, from the former powerhouse on site located to the rear of the property, was used as fill in the parking lot. The coal ash will be capped off when the parking lot is built on site, he said. The cleanup was funded through a HUD Innovative Technologies Grant, administered by the Environmental Protection Agency.
"The DEP has really gone out of its way to help us in a solution to our cleanup plan," Vallone said. The plan, he said, has been both financially feasible and economically responsible.
Vallone thanked former Town Administrator Larry Shaffer and current Town Administrator Christopher Clark, Mayor Ellen Marmer, Rep. Claire Janowski and Sen. Tony Guglielmo.
"There have been many people who have helped with this project," Vallone said. "I could go on and on. This community has opened its arms to the idea of bringing this building back to life. It's really the leadership on all sides who have helped with this project."
Many would have just given up on the property and said 'tear the building down,' Vallone added.
"I'm looking at this as a positive domino effect for the area," said Mayor Ellen Marmer.
"This project enhances the neighborhood," Vallone agreed.
One issue that still remains is the $1.5 million that was part of multi-billion dollar bond package vetoed by Governor Rell. As part of a pre-closing agreement with Vallone, the town had agreed to a certain amount of demolition and cleanup work. The $1.5 million proposal, $1 million in 2008 and $500,000 in 2009, was Urban Act funding, submitted Nov. 8, 2006, through Rep. Claire Janowski. When Rell vetoed the bond package, the funds for the project were also put on hold, but Janowski is still hopeful.
"I'm very optimistic that the money will be there," she said. "She [Rell] has the power to take any of those projects and put [them] on the bond agenda," Janowski said. She vowed to work on getting that goal accomplished. "We're going to try to push it through as quickly as possible."
Vallone closed on his construction loan in March of this year and said he is hopeful the funding comes through and cleanup is able to take place this winter. He envisions patching and cleaning of the building's facade and installing new windows in the spring.
"From when we start, we're probably looking at 14-16 months," he said, which would put the opening of the facility in the summer of 2009.
Before it became Roosevelt Mills, the former sweater manufacturing company was also known as the Minterburn Mill. It was built in 1906 and is situated at the southern tip of the Snipsic Reservoir. The property has been vacant since the mid-1980s.