NEW BRITAIN-When it was announced that Stanley Black & Decker was planning to demolish all nine buildings it owns east of Curtis Street and south of Myrtle Street, some city residents saw this as a sign of revitalization in the decrepit corner, while others were upset their beloved town would be losing a historic landmark.
“Historic factory buildings are part of the excitement of visiting and living in a city with some history, removing them entirely removes the excitement and character as well,” said New Britain resident Charles Tersolo.
On July 19, the Facebook group “Save the Stanley Nine” was created to rally community members to delay the demolition in hopes of later preserving the buildings. The page has 95 likes, and 99 followers.
“All of us feel that the loss of one of our last and oldest industrial facilities is a major and irreplaceable loss to our city and the building,” said New Britain resident and one of the founding members of the Facebook group, Brendan Rudge.
He said the group believes the buildings would better serve the community if they were restored and developed rather than be razed and become “the empty lot that would take its place.” However, Stanley Black & Decker’s Vice President of Public Affairs Tim Perra said the age of the buildings and inspections from LEA determine the structures are uninhabitable.
“Over the course of more than 10 years we have explored countless opportunities for alternative uses for the buildings with the city and with many other developers. None of those opportunities proved to be viable. The buildings have now deteriorated to the point of becoming unsuitable for other uses and have become a safety concern,” Perra said.
The buildings are more than 100 years old, having been built in the late 1800s, and they have not been used since the 1990s. Time and the elements have taken their toll on the structures.
“We deeply appreciate the history and heritage of the city that we’ve called home for nearly 175 years, and we take our role in that history very seriously,” said Perra. “Throughout this entire process, we worked with the city and all other state and historic agencies with relevant jurisdiction prior to making the decision to demolish the buildings in question.”
Perra said the process began approximately a year ago. Stanley filed a claim with the State Historic Preservation office last August, and it concluded with a tour through the facility in April when the buildings were deemed unfit.
Despite the group’s efforts to ask for a delay of demolition for the buildings, the process has already begun with the removal of asbestos.
The completion of the demolition will not be done until sometime in 2018, and plans for what will take over the site are still unclear.
“We haven’t determined yet what our plans for the land are,” Perra said.
There has been talk that Farmington-based Thunderbird CHP plans to develop a technology park on another parcel of land on the site of the former Stanley complex.
According to a report by the Hartford Business Journal the park could include $500 million in capital investment, and Thunderbird hopes for it to be a hub for users like ESPN, UConn, Yale and many others.
UConn Economist Fred Carstensen, who was commissioned by Thunderbird to do a report, said the project could create 1,000 jobs and more tax revenue for New Britain but nothing has been set in stone yet.
Rudge said the group is in the process of organizing their first public meeting, details have yet to be announced. They’ve also been reaching out to local and state leaders for assistance but have gotten mixed responses.
Mayor Erin Stewart and state Rep. William Petit both have said nothing can be done because the land is private property.
Stewart told The Herald in July that the teardown is in the best interest for the area because the buildings have become “structurally unsound and a safety hazard.”
“Save the Stanley Nine” members have also been in talks with different aldermen in the city. Rudge said, Alderman Chris Polkowski is in favor of the demolition, but others “seemed to at least have some level of concern about the project.”
Although the buildings are a part of New Britain’s history - a driving force of why the group wants to save the buildings - Perra said it’s important to note that the buildings are not listed on any historic site.
“It is also important to point out that although we have had a longstanding strong relationship with the city of New Britain, we own the properties and decision to demolish them was ultimately our decision,” Perra said.
Angie DeRosa can be reached at 860-801-5063 or firstname.lastname@example.org