River clean-up details holding up engine plant deal

The largest remaining hurdle to be overcome before the sale of the Stratford Army Engine Plant to Point Stratford Renewal (PSR) can be completed continues to be the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the owners of the plant, the U.S. Army, agreeing on what will be required to clean up the Housatonic riverbed adjacent to the property, it was disclosed during a meeting here on Monday.

Mud samples have been taken from the riverbed and analysis by DEEP is underway. Results are expected to be formalized by August, according to Stratford Economic Development Director Karen Kaiser. Progress is being made, but months pass by.

Once DEEP decides how much cleanup will be required, there may be some negotiating with the Army, which agreed in the purchase-sale agreement to be responsible for remediating the riverbed. When an agreement is reached on the scope of work, the Army would then determine how much it will pay to get the work accomplished.

The principals representing the Connecticut DEEP part of the equation came to Stratford Monday and heard directly from PSR that there is interest from the marketplace in becoming a partner developer at the 77-acre site between Main Street and the Housatonic River, but an issue those potential partners express is with timing. The implication is that the sooner DEEP and the Army come to terms on the mudflats, the sooner PSR will be able to close the deal on the purchase and get partner developers under contract.

When PSR principals Jeffery Loureiro and Mike Ryan were asked if they still expect the close their purchase transaction by the end of 2014 they mentioned that a couple of months’ delay that occurred early this year may push the deal into 2015.

Loureiro and DEEP Deputy Commissioner Macky McCleary told The Star that there is a possibility that once the Army agrees on the scope and cost of river remediation it may contract with PSR to conduct the actual cleanup work. In addition to being a principal with PSR, Loureiro is chief executive of Loureiro Engineering Associates, specialists in environmental engineering.

McCleary and he both believe that having PSR handle the cleanup could expedite the process, have cost advantages, and allow the work to be done in a complementary way during the remediation and development on land.

Master plan evolves
DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee and McCleary heard from Ted Lane and Donald Gershman of Point Stratford Renewal that much interest in the engine plant property is coming from residential developers. PSR’s tentative master plan now contains up to 1,500 residential units across a spectrum of price points and types.

Mayor John Harkins, Connecticut Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Robert Klee and Deputy Commissioner Macky McCleary get an update from Ted Lane of Point Stratford Renewal, standing, on development plans at Stratford Army Engine Plant on June 16. Greg Reilly photo.

Mayor John Harkins, Connecticut Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Robert Klee and Deputy Commissioner Macky McCleary get an update from Ted Lane of Point Stratford Renewal, standing, on development plans at Stratford Army Engine Plant on June 16. Greg Reilly photo.

Lane told the officials that their general plans includes providing access to the water, extending a bicycle and walking path along the river, exploring the use of an existing large hangar building as a sports complex, and other community amenities such as an amphitheater and beer garden.

Initial research by PSR indicates that Stratford is “not a great office market,” according to Lane.

When the question arose of possibly establishing a boating marina in the river adjacent to the property, Lane said that that would multiply the value of the land being sold or leased, but no plans for a marina are in place. The sensitive issue of riverbed cleanup must be settled before boat access can be included in the plans, the developers say.

Benefits of the visit
Klee said that visiting the site in Stratford will help him understand the project as he makes or oversees decisions in Hartford. “Nothing can substitute for being on the ground, in the field, to get a sense for the place and the relationships (of parts of the property),” said Klee.

In addition, he said it is important for him see the blight that old vacant industrial properties impose on adjacent neighborhoods. Coming to the engine plant “helps to get a cohesive vision of the potential reuse,” he said.

The environmental protection commissioner said, “We cover a breadth of issues including recreational use of natural resources.” He said he was pleased to hear about the bicycling paths along shore.

McCleary, who is the hand-on administrator working between DEEP and the Army, said, “This is a generational opportunity to get the property redeveloped.” He said he wants to be part of the solution, and not be a hindrance to the deal being completed.

Stratford Army Engine Plant is bordered to the east by the Housatonic River. Courtesy Point Stratford Renewal LLC.

Stratford Army Engine Plant is bordered to the east by the Housatonic River. Courtesy Point Stratford Renewal LLC.

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