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September 28, 2022

Mass. developer drawn to Waterbury by affordable land, receptive officials 

CoStar 3800 East Main St., Waterbury

The Massachusetts company that recently paid $5 million for a nearly 20-acre development site at 3800 East Main St. in Waterbury was convinced to make the investment by affordable land prices and a warm welcome from local officials.

Founded in 2014, Shearwater Development, of Raynham, Massachusetts, has concentrated its development efforts in the Bay State until recently. Rising interest rates and construction materials costs prompted the developer to seek out lower land costs in a search extending into Rhode Island and Connecticut. It was Colliers that drew Shearwater’s attention to the vacant building site at 3800 East Main St., said Jamie Ciffolillo, a partner in Shearwater.

In Massachusetts, building sites near highway access are selling for $50 to $60 per square foot, Ciffolillo said.

Shearwater paid $5 million to Waterbury Retail Investments in a deal recorded Sept. 13.

The Waterbury site – which was previously approved for an e-commerce distribution facility – was once a steep, rocky hill, but has been mined for gravel down to a relatively flat building site. It still requires “a fairly substantial” retaining wall ahead of development, not to mention construction of utility connections. But those costs are manageable when coupled with the relatively affordable land price and excellent access to

Interstate 84 via two nearby interchanges, Ciffolillo said.

“When we are speaking of $50 to $60 per buildable square foot prices here in Massachusetts and we are talking $20 a buildable square foot there, the math still makes sense,” Ciffolillo said.

Ciffolillo said rising interest costs made Shearwater reconsider buying the Waterbury property. But the site is promising, and city officials have proven eager and supportive of development, he said. Shearwater representatives met with Mayor Neil O’Leary, Economic Development Director Joseph McGrath and other members of the city administration.

“It is challenging, but we think the highway access and level of support we will be getting from the City of Waterbury is incredible,” Ciffolillo said.

The building site is located next to a Kohl’s, Costco and Restaurant Depot, all using a shared access road.

On its website, Shearwater lists ownership of nine office and industrial properties, ranging in size from a 15,000-square-foot warehouse in Taunton, Massachusetts, to a 160,000-square-foot manufacturing and distribution building in Stoughton, Massachusetts.

Shearwater presented rough plans for a 220,000-square-foot warehouse to Waterbury officials, and are designing to that specification, but it is also trying to remain flexible. The company would be open to building to suit a manufacturer or retailer. It won’t finalize designs or begin building until a user is identified, Ciffolillo said. That way, the building can be tailored to the end user.

The site at 3800 East Main St. had been eyed for development of a Super Wal-Mart and, more recently, for an Amazon “last-mile” warehouse. Ciffolillo said all needed local board approvals are in place. Building permits would need to be pulled prior to construction, but no further regulatory approvals are needed, he said. 

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