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April 15, 2021

Middletown pays $2.6M for riverfront properties; housing, mixed-use development eyed

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.

Middletown’s long-held desire to open up a significant section of its waterfront to new development has taken another step forward with the $2.6 million purchase of nine acres of underutilized industrial land along the Connecticut River.

The common council voted unanimously on Monday to approve the acquisition of four properties from Martin Smith of Waterhouse Development.

Smith had won approval in 2016 to redevelop the largest of the four parcels, 225 River Road, which is home to the former Jackson Corrugated Container Corp. property, into a condominium community. However, the project never materialized.

Joseph Samolis, the city’s director of planning, conservation and development, said Thursday the city intends to hold the newly acquired parcels for future development.

It will likely be another 12 to 18 months before further plans are hatched, as the city is close to hiring a consultant to produce a conceptual vision for the broader southern riverfront area known as South Cove, bordered by Silver Street to the south, Eastern Drive to the east, Union Street to the west.

“These parcels specifically are some of the only sites outside of the floodplain immediately adjacent to the river, which makes it really ideal for future development,” Samolis told councilors.

That means housing and mixed-use are both potential options for the parcels, he said.

Middletown’s redevelopment efforts for the area around River Road have progressed over the past two years thanks to the rerouting of city sewage from an aging pumping station along the riverbank to a new facility in neighboring Cromwell, as well as city voters’ approval last November of a $55 million borrowing for various infrastructure projects, $5 million of which was reserved for riverfront land acquisitions.

Roughly $2.4 million of those acquisition funds now remain and Samolis said the city is looking to spend more of it soon. One possibility is a smaller parcel located just to the west of the Corrugated Container property at the corner of River Road and Walnut, he said.

Samolis is aiming to have a purchase proposal for that  in front of the common council in May. He said that once the master plan is in place the city will tackle zoning changes, ultimately hoping to leverage zoning updates and the city-owned properties to entice a master developer for a significant portion of the riverfront area.

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