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Updated: October 5, 2020 Town Profile: Newington

Newington closer than ever on National Welding site redevelopment

Photo | Contributed Newington’s former National Welding site on Cedar Street has been cleared of the industrial buildings shown above and is open to redevelopment.
Newington’s National Welding site at a glance: 
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When National Welding opened its metal-machining plant on Newington’s Cedar Street in 1941, the 3.9-acre parcel was part of a peaking U.S. steel industry, the power center of which was New England.

Since the town acquired the property through a 2008 municipal tax foreclosure, the empty space is a signal of the end of one era, and the possible dawning of another, as Newington seeks a developer that can leverage the plot’s proximity to the highway, CTfastrak bus system and Central Connecticut State University, said Newington Town Manager Keith Chapman.

However, finding a developer for the property has been a challenge. The site at 690 Cedar St. has stood vacant for nearly three decades, but the town is currently in discussions with developers and could soon announce a deal, said Chapman, who declined to share details about the negotiations.

He did share his views on what kind of developments would best gel with the area — residential, office or mixed-use projects are all strong possibilities.

Meantime, the town council already has the authority to sell the property to an interested developer, which should help speed the process along once a deal is in place.

“All of the planets have lined up for something good to happen that hasn’t happened in many years,” Chapman said. “It’s got a lot of potential.”

It seems a bit unusual that discussions with developers are moving quickly during a pandemic when the property sat vacant for so long, Chapman said. However, brokers say real estate investors are buying up commercial and residential properties as fast as they’re becoming available lately. The dynamic might be one of the small silver linings that accompany the pandemic.

Photo | HBJ File
The National Welding site was remediated during the administration of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

“I think this COVID-19 has given [real estate investors] kind of an opportunity,” Chapman said.

Transit-oriented development

The National Welding site is on the far west end of town, located close to CCSU’s Stanley Street campus.

After obtaining the property in 2008, the town later received a $2-million grant from the state Department of Economic and Community Development, (DECD) which it used to demolish vacant buildings and clean up the site to make it marketable.

The town was previously in discussions with an Albany developer about opening a 120-room hotel on the property, but that never materialized. Those discussions occurred in 2018, before Chapman became town manager.

“There are options that could be pursued in that location, which would benefit the town and bring grand list growth,” Chapman said. “Any of those things would be good for the town.”

Newington currently has a mill rate of 39.28 and its 2019-2020 grand list totaled $2.6 billion.

Like towns across the state, Newington has seen retailers and restaurants close amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Pier 1 — currently in bankruptcy — shut down its Newington location, as has the Laser Quest entertainment complex, and a few independent restaurants in town, Chapman said.

The full impact of these closures won’t be clear for another few months, since the town is allowing taxpayers to defer real estate taxes for 90 days, Chapman said.

While the Cedar Street property has remained vacant since National Welding shuttered in 1994, it became more attractive in recent years once the state Department of Transportation built its rapid transit bus system near it. That made the area ripe for transit-oriented development.

An apartment complex, Chapman said, would put residents in walking distance to CTfastrak, which runs between Hartford and New Britain. An office building would bring more people into town each day, and have proximity to the busway, offering a car-free option for employees to get to work. Something in partnership with CCSU could also make sense, Chapman said.

“We feel that we’re close to having some type of an offer made on the property,” Chapman said. “Now it’s a matter of a developer coming in and making an offer for the land, and providing a scope of development that is appealing to the town.”

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