STONINGTON — The Economic Development Commission is considering strategies for attracting investment to the Campbell Grain property and several other sites around Pawcatuck.
Commission member Jim Lathrop, owner of Best Energy at 2-4 Mechanic St., who is leading the commission’s Campbell Grain subcommittee, said Wednesday that the quality and character of the site’s redevelopment will affect the entire area.
“We feel that as a group that what happens on the property will have a pretty profound effect on downtown Pawcatuck and even downtown Westerly,” he said. “So, we need to try to see which way we can nudge the development of that site, because it’s not going to stay vacant forever.”
In 1917, Campbell Grain built a 45,000-square-foot grain elevator and a grist mill on the site. In the 1980s the property was leased to a printing business, then an office equipment company, and later to startup companies. The 2010 flood damaged the grist building and in 2016 it was deconstructed and its beams and columns were were sold. The grain elevator was demolished in August.
The 2-acre property at 27 West Broad St. is bordered by the Pawcatuck River to the northeast, the train tracks to the west and Coggswell Street to the east.
Lathrop said the commission was seeking a source of funding to put together conceptual drawings of what the site could look like with mixed-use buildings. “One of the things we’re looking at for this property is maxing out what’s allowed, which would be potentially 75 to 80 residential units and some commercial development along with it,” he said.
The drawings would be used as marketing tool for investors or developers. Since the 1980s, the property has been owned by Frank DeCiantis, a resident of Virginia whose father owned it before him.
Dave Hammond, commission chair, said the commission could also create some drone images that would show what the view would be from the proposed building height.
“If we can take the drone up there and do a 360 view, that could also be used as marketing media for the property owner,” he said. “It’s one of the initiatives that we’re taking to help facilitate some movement on that property.”
Hammond said part of the commission’s budget proposal for 2019-20 would include funding for the drawings, but to do the project sooner than the next fiscal year would require some creativity.
“If we have to wait until July for that money to be available and we want to make this project happen sooner, then we have to look for other sources of funding,” he said. “So, I might be looking for someone to sponsor the work."
Jason Vincent, the town's director of the planing, said that over the last two years the town had received four technical assistance grants from University of Connecticut — three through the engineering program and one through the landscape architecture program — to create scenarios for several projects.
He said the engineering students did conceptual drawings for a pedestrian bridge over the Pawcatuck River connecting Pawcatuck and Westerly and some analysis for the bulkheads needed for a riverwalk structure in Pawcatuck.
Hammond said, “These are infrastructure projects would raise the amenity level in Pawcatuck and make it more of a walkable neighborhood.”
The engineering students also did a conceptual design for a parking facility at the Mystic Train Station, and the landscape architecture students created conceptual drawings reimagining Coogan Boulevard.
“We won’t be able to take those projects and put them out to bid and start construction based on those drawings,” said Vincent. “But it at least gives us a framework of the types of issues and an understanding of the permitting challenges and conceptual costs of what a project would look like if we were to choose to source some additional funding.”
The drawings, Hammond said, could light up "the community’s interest and enthusiasm for voting to provide the funding.”
Vincent said the students’ work would also become marketing materials for future grant applications or to try to inspire community leaders to try to find the mney.
In other business, Lathrop said that five sites in downtown Pawcatuck had been recommended by the state as eligible for historic status. “That incentivizes redevelopment of those properties in a manner that keeps their historic look or context,” he said.
The five properties are: 1, 29, 34, and 38 West Broad St., and 5 Coggswell St. Lathrop said he expected the five properties to receive historic status during 2019.