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February 20, 2023 / 2023 Power 50

2023 Power 50: 36. Neil O'Leary

Neil O'Leary

Over a decade in office, Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary has used political charisma and clout to make strides turning the city's heavy burden of brownfields into redevelopment assets. 

He courted allies in Washington, D.C., and Hartford, securing tens of millions of dollars to begin clearing away some of the city's most prominent abandoned industrial complexes. 

Once engines of Waterbury’s prosperity, these have become fire traps and eyesores that occupy potentially prime development sites.

But turning brownfields into productive use is enormously expensive and it can take years to see a payoff. O’Leary’s political capital gained him the outside support, as well as the local leeway to pursue cleanups with unpredictable timetables.

Some of those results have already manifested, while others are still pending.

A portion of the former Chase Brass and Copper Co. along Thomaston Avenue was renovated into the Waterbury Industrial Commons, allowing the city to hold onto key tenants, including semiconductor wire manufacturer Luvata. Chemicals manufacturer King Industries is building a manufacturing complex on 11 acres that were cleared and carved away for sale.

The city has spent heavily upgrading streets and underground utility infrastructure around the Freight Street industrial corridor, aiming to put dozens of sleepy and abandoned industrial acres back to use.

The city recently bought a six-acre portion of the former Anaconda American Brass complex along Freight Street. Taken together with 14 acres the city already owns – and had largely cleared of buildings – that purchase will yield 20 acres for development in a prime location at the heart of the city, by the crossroads of Interstate 84 and Route 8.

The O’Leary administration has also made strides clearing a 17-acre site that once hosted the Anamet industrial complex. The administration is currently in negotiations with a potential user.

Find out who else is in the 2023 Power 50.

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