Stonington - For a few decades, the building at the highly visible corner of West Broad and Mechanic Street in downtown Pawcatuck has been vacant and falling into disrepair.
For the past few years, First Selectman Ed Haberek has made the renovation and reuse of the building one of his priorities in revitalizing the downtown area.
But Haberek's efforts, as well as those of selectmen before him, had gone for naught as owner Stephen Vacca has ignored them. More recently, the town cited Vacca for violating the town's blight ordinance in an effort to force him to make repairs to the building.
But now, Vacca's nephew James Lathrop, the owner of Phoenix Oil on Taugwonk Spur Road, is seeking a zoning permit to renovate the building at 2-4 Mechanic St. and use it as an office and retail outlet for his oil, heating, refrigeration and air conditioning business. No oil or oil trucks would be stored on the property, which is within yards of the Pawcatuck River. The building was once a tire store.
The Planning and Zoning Commission is scheduled to discuss the permit request for a change of use when it meets at 7 tonight at Mystic Middle School.
Haberek called the plan a welcome addition to the downtown.
"Its been long overdue for this building to be rehabilitated," he said. "I appreciate what Jim is doing with his uncle."
Plans call for renovating 800 square feet of the 4,500-square-foot building into office, retail space, a workshop and a small storeroom, according to the permit application.
Plans also call for new paint and other minor exterior repairs. Some exterior work has been done in recent months.
Another nearby vacant building, the one that used to house the former Day office on West Broad Street next to Bess Eaton, is being renovated into a salon.