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Interest Expressed In Industrial Reuse Of Batchelder Site



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Interest Expressed In Industrial Reuse Of Batchelder Site

By Andrew Gorosko

In its continuing effort to find a new use for the industrially contaminated Batchelder property in Botsford, the town has had some preliminary talks with an industrial firm interested in putting the property back into use.

Community Development Director Elizabeth Stocker said this week that the firm is interested in reusing the Swamp Road site of the former Charles Batchelder Company for manufacturing, as well as for product research and development. The Batchelder site is now considered industrial ruins.

Ms Stocker declined to identify the company interested in reusing the Batchelder property. There is no formal agreement between the firm and the town, she said.

Last fall, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) earmarked $150,000 in federal funds toward a major environmental cleanup of the Batchelder property at 44-46 Swamp Road. The town has been working on creating some new use for the site for the past several years. Town officials acknowledge, though, that their marketing of the Batchelder “brownfield,” as such contaminated properties are known, is a tough sell.

Extensive cleanup work would be needed at the abandoned site before the Batchelder property could be reused. The property contains an abandoned aluminum smelting plant, extensive metallic waste piles, and soil and groundwater contaminated by leaking underground fuel storage tanks. Batchelder abandoned the site in 1987.

An analysis of the contaminated industrial waste there indicates it would cost up to $1.365 million to clean the property to make it suitable for an industrial reuse.

In 1997, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spent about $300,000 to remove certain forms of toxic waste from the site, including heavy metals and solvents. The EPA fenced off the contaminated site.

Last December 21, a deliberately set fire occurred within a two-story office section of the complex, extensively damaging about 10,000 square feet of the 100,000-square-foot complex. The town demolished the section of building that was damaged in the fire.

Interested Developer

“We do have an interested developer” for the property, Ms Stocker said. “We’re in the preliminary stages of discussions,” she said. “Everything is very preliminary at this point,” she noted.

The state government’s help in marketing the Batchelder property has generated inquiries about the potential reuse of the site, Ms Stocker said. Since the town started promoting the Batchelder property’s availability for industrial reuse, it has received about 25 inquiries on the property, Ms Stocker said. Such inquiries have come from real estate firms, brokers, and companies interested in the property.

The town is exploring enlisting the Naugatuck Valley Development Corporation to help reclaim the property for new a use, Ms Stocker said.

That organization helped General Growth Properties of Chicago cleanup and redevelop the contaminated former Scovill Brass Company site in Waterbury, converting that major brownfield in 1997 into the Brass Mill Center shopping mall and the adjacent Brass Mill Commons shopping center.

Ms Stocker pointed out that the Batchelder property’s reuse is complicated by the site’s extensive contamination, the Batchelder firm’s bankruptcy, and liens that have been placed against the property. A major potential problem in redeveloping the property is that the cost to cleanup the site might exceed the property’s market value, posing a “negative value” situation.

Although there are definite obstacles to redeveloping the property, Ms Stocker said she is optimistic that it can be accomplished.

“I would say our prospects are very good. There are [incentive] programs available for brownfields redevelopment,” she said. Other contaminated properties elsewhere have been reclaimed for new uses, she noted. Putting the Batchelder site back in use would put the property back on the town tax rolls.

The town and state are seeking to show that some form of economic value exists in the industrial features and materials that exist on the abandoned property. Such value might be found through using the various decaying industrial equipment on the site for scrap metal. The large concrete slab on the property may hold some future value. Sections of the sprawling industrial building on the site may be reusable. About ten acres of the 34-acre site are considered usable. The rest is wetlands.

After a new user for the Batchelder site is found, the town and state would fashion some type of financial assistance package as an incentive to redevelop the property.

According to the town, the site lends itself to becoming a light manufacturing complex or a warehouse/distribution center.

Under current zoning regulations, up to 400,000 square feet of enclosed industrial space could exist on the site. Current zoning for the property would allow light manufacturing, heavy manufacturing, research and development facilities, offices, a distribution complex, or warehousing.

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