Gov. Dannel P. Malloy delivered some good news to the most distressed municipality in the state Monday when he announced that the state planned to spend about $19.2 million in Waterbury buying up properties, renovating old ones, and improving transportation options.
The project, which is being nicknamed “Waterbury Next,” includes a handful of ideas from redeveloping the historic Howland Hughes building for $5 million to demolition of the long-closed Prospect Street garage for $1.2 million. The project also includes about $4 million in infrastructure improvements, $1 million to purchase a brownfield, $1 million to purchase the historic Rose Hill campus, and $25,000 for pre-development of the Brown Building. The total cost of those projects is about $12.2 million.
Monday’s announcement was made under a tent on the city green.
The state also plans to spend about $6 million to $7 million on improving the signalization for the Waterbury branch of the New Haven Rail Line.
The Waterbury branch is the only portion of the Metro-North service area that does not have a signal system. That, combined with the fact that much of the branch only has one track, prevents more trains from being operated on the line.
“Without signals we can’t add any more services,” Transportation Commissioner James Redeker said. “And this line needs more service and this town deserves more service as the transit hub that it is.”
All the projects will be paid for through state bonding, according to state officials.
Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary said he expected the projects to “unlock significant private investment by all downtown property owners as we change the environment and economics to make it worth their while to do so.”
He said that at the end of the day, stakeholders throughout the region are working together “for the good of the City of Waterbury.”
Some of the projects that will receive state funding have been in the works for more than a year, while some like the demolition of the parking garage and the acquisition of the Rose Hill campus were just announced on Monday.
O’Leary said it has taken a long time to put some of the projects together and he was distracted with the failed merger of Waterbury Hospital and St. Mary’s Hospital during the first 10 months of his tenure as mayor.
However, since getting elected in 2011, O’Leary said Malloy has had an open door and is willing to speak about investment in the city.
“Let’s be very honest, our older, urban environments in Connecticut bare the scars and the sweat of the industrial revolution,” Malloy said. “And it’s time to clean those up so that those spaces can be put back to good use.”
As far as Waterbury being a battleground in the 2014 election. . .
“The whole state’s a battleground for God’s Sake,” Malloy said. “We’re going to be all over the state in campaigns. That’s what campaigns are. It’s a battle for the future of the state of Connecticut.”
In the 2010 race, Malloy beat Republican Tom Foley in Waterbury by about 1,728 votes. He went on to win the election by a slim 6,404 votes.