Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Local News

Apartments at Former Unilever HQ Moving Ahead

A 47-unit apartment project that was approved by the Planning & Zoning Commission (PZC) in May is moving ahead, with the developer filing an application for a building permit for the site of the former office building on the Unilever property. The permit is currently under review by the building department.

In May, the PZC approved an application from developer Michael Massimino to convert the old office building located at 9-15 John Street into apartments. The office building is located on the Unilever property across the parking lot from the main headquarters building.

The plans for the property call for a mix of two-bedroom and single-bedroom units to be built across three floors. The building currently has two floors but the plan is to add an additional floor and use the center of the building for additional storage and common amenities for the residents.

On Oct. 29, Clinton Building Inspector Ed Smith gave the Harbor News an update on the apartment application.

“It is being reviewed for code compliance by a consulting firm that specializes in this type of project. Technically we have 30 days to respond to the application and present a list of questions or requests for clarification, if any. I expect that the initial plan review will be completed early next week,” Smith said.

At press time, Smith said a sprinkler design is still needed for the application.

“When all questions and concerns have been submitted and addressed by the architectural and engineering firms, and they have been incorporated into the project drawings and specification manual a permit can be issued,” Smith said.

Progress at the Unilever property will be a welcome sign for many, though questions on how fast that progress is going still remain. The first application for the apartments was received by the PZC in January and public hearings followed in February, March, and May. Approval was eventually granted in May.

The application drew an intervenor, Judy Rasmussen, who retained attorney Keith Ainsworth to state her concerns to the commission at the hearings. Primarily her concerns were aimed at making John Street, which abuts the property as safe as possible for those that live there.

When the apartment application was submitted in the winter, it was paired with another application that excited the town: one to put a brewery inside a portion of the main headquarters building. Kinsmen Brewing Co. was named as the potential tenant. The brewery currently has another location in Milldale (not far from Southington).

That application was pulled in March because Massimino applied for a state application for historic building preservation. If the building is deemed historic, it would result in tax credits for the developer. However, the timeline for the state to review the application was expected to last longer than the time the PZC is allowed to review open applications.

Massimino said he would resubmit the brewery application once the historic preservation application was done is done. Smith said he has heard no updates on the potential brewery application at press time.

Townspeople have been excited about the potential developments at Unilever ever since the prospect became serious in summer 2019. Almost no members of the public have been against any of the potential plans for the property, but some people have been critical and skeptical of the presentations made by the developer.

Residents and land use officials have been concerned about a lack of a detailed master plan for the overall development of the property. Instead, the developer has submitted smaller applications for each individual proposed use on the property. The public hearings in the winter had to be continued more than once for the developer to provide required documentation to the PZC that wasn’t initially submitted. The long process has led to some people questioning the validly of the estimated tiemline for the development to be completed. A website for the development states that the apartments will be coming in 2021.

The Unilever plant was a staple of Clinton’s business life for more than 100 years, but Unilever closed the plant at the end of 2012.

The site sat vacant for seven years before the sale of the Unilever property to Massimino was announced in July 2019.

The developer has dubbed the redeveloped Unilever “The Station at Clinton” and if built to completion will contain apartments, the brewery and restaurant, an indoor recreation facility, and commercial space.

In fall 2019, an application from Massimino to put an indoor recreation complex into a portion of the headquarter building was approved by the PZC. That indoor complex has also not been built yet at this time. A building permit for that application must first be completed. Smith said that he has no information at press time for any plans beyond the apartment complex.

Massimino could not be reached for comment for this story.

Eric O’Connell covers news for Clinton for Zip06. Email Eric at e.oconnell@shorepublishing.com.

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