If all goes as planned, the Town of Berlin will obtain a CHAMP grant from the state and use the funds to buy the property at 884 Farmington Ave., known as Depot Crossing.
The building has long been vacant and was being counted on by the town as a major cornerstone of the redevelopment of Farmington Avenue near the train station and proposed police station.
According to a letter of the proposal sent to Berlin Patch by Economic Development Director Jim Mahoney, the town would use the grant to pay $850,000 plus any back taxes and penalties on the property.
"We have had some interest but nothing materialized," Mahoney said. "We are hoping to improve the appearance of the building, finish the siding and our goal is to work with a developer to sell the building quickly."
In order for this to work, the proposal stated it would re-draw the property lines to allow the Kensington Fire Dept. more land to put up its 9-11 Memorial and also donate over an acre of land to the Berlin Land Trust.
An excerpt from the proposal states the goals of the purchase.
"The concept is to use the first floor of the building for commercial use and to use the second and third floors for 16 residential rental units to be rented to be affordable at 120 percent of the area median income. The change in the project from all commercial use to mixed use with residential units will better fit current market conditions and it would be consistent with the State’s plans to encourage Transit Oriented Development projects, including residential use, near train stations. Further, land would be swapped with the Kensington Fire Department such that the Fire Department would acquire land to square off its parcel and allow the completion of the 9-11 memorial park and the Town would receive added acreage in the rear to give it a 4 acre parcel after the Land donation to the Land Trust thus satisfying the land area requirements for 16 units of housing at 4 units per acre per the current CCD-1 zoning regulations. The rear acreage that the Town would receive would be subject to a conservation easement and would be functionally combined with the 1.308 acres being received by the Land Trust to create a small park/open space area along the Mattabesset River."
In order for the proposal to move forward the Council approved it and moved it as worded below.:
"Move to refer the matter of purchase of 884 Farmington Avenue, Berlin, Connecticut to the Planning and Zoning Commission for a review pursuant to section 8-24 of the Connecticut General Statutes, to authorize staff to apply for a CHAMP grant, to scheduled a public hearing on the purchase for Tuesday March 19 at 6:45 p.m. at the Berlin Town Council Chambers, and to authorize the Town Manager to enter into an agreement with the Berlin Land Trust to reimburse the Land Trust for any costs that it incurs if the Town does not accept assignment of the Purchase and Sale Agreement for 848 Farmington Avenue."
Mayor Adam Salina said he hopes this process can go quickly.
"We are trying to acquire a grant funding the purchase of a property that we feel is a blighted property and is in a very visible location," Salina said. "We do not want to take ownership or operate this building but rather work with a developer to take ownership and sell this building and property to them. We hope this is a matter of months and not years. It will have no impact to the taxpayer as the money for the purchase will come completely from the grant. We are not going to hold onto this property for long at all."