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Updated: October 14, 2019 Town Profile: Middletown

Middletown eyes riverfront development

Rendering | Contributed A map of Middletown's South Cove riverfront area, where the city has just paid $2.6 million for several properties (including the parcel labeled "Jackson Site" on this map) for future development.
Rendering | Contributed Middletown’s riverfront could add a public park with a stage or public dock.

Joseph Samolis, Middletown’s director of planning, conservation and development, finds himself staring down a long-awaited opportunity.

Five acres of city-owned land abutting the Connecticut River could soon be open for redevelopment, and Middletown officials may formally seek development proposals next year, Samolis said.

While the 100 River Road property — home to an aging sewage pumping station located a third-of-a-mile south of the Mattabesett Canoe Club restaurant — is in a flood zone, which limits development options, Samolis said it could house a public park with a music stage, or perhaps even a public dock that would allow more people to visit the nearby downtown area by boat.

“Light commercial activity” could also be possible, he said.

“There’s truly a lot of potential,” said Samolis, adding that he hopes improving public access to the riverfront might make other privately owned land along the Connecticut River more attractive to developers.

“Those private parcels, we think, will start to see more interest,” he said. “Economic development, I think, will flourish.”

The city in recent years has assessed redevelopment possibilities for several riverfront properties just south of the pumping station.

One is the “OMO site” at 50 Walnut St., which had been historically used as a dump, but was remediated five years ago.

A 2014 planning report said the site could house riverfront parking, a public market, performance spaces, art galleries, and commercial space near Route 9. The property owner also suggested a rooftop restaurant overlooking the water, according to the report.

Another prime site is the former home of Jackson Corrugated Container Corp., at 225 River Road. Middletown greenlit a sizable residential community there, but the project hasn’t materialized. A recent zoning change could open up other development options, such as mixed-use, should the developer wish to pursue it, Samolis said.

Site cleanup

The 1960s-era River Road pumping station is scheduled to be decommissioned by late winter. It’s being replaced by a new higher-capacity pumping station under construction on East Main Street.

The new facility, part of a $60 million project, will make it possible to route Middletown’s sewage several miles north to a Cromwell treatment facility owned by the Mattabassett District.

Middletown plans to pursue state brownfield grants to remediate the old pumping station site. After that, the city will issue a development request for proposals, possibly by next summer, Samolis said.

Meanwhile, the state is in the planning stages of a project that would redesign a key, heavily trafficked Route 9 intersection that splits the riverfront from downtown Middletown.

Samolis hopes the project can help spur the construction of a new pedestrian bridge across the highway and improvements to nearby Union Street, spurring better public access to the riverfront.

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