Former Mystic armory building could become light manufacturing center

The former Mystic armory building, seen Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018, on Summit Street is being proposed to be renovated into a technology and light manufacturing center. (Joe Wojtas/The Day)
The former Mystic armory building, seen Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018, on Summit Street is being proposed to be renovated into a technology and light manufacturing center. (Joe Wojtas/The Day)

Mystic — A local business owner has purchased the abandoned armory building on Summit Street, cleaned up the overgrown site and now is seeking zoning approval to turn it into a technology, business and light manufacturing center.

Harrison Macris, who owns Macris Industries, has applied for a special use permit from the Stonington Planning and Zoning Commission, which has scheduled a public hearing for March 20.

The 7,000-square-foot building had been used by the Connecticut National Guard through the late 1980s, as well as for a community center. It was then used through the 1990s and into the 2000s by Connecticut Light & Power and various construction firms for the storage of equipment and office space. After that it fell into disrepair, with the 4.4-acre site full of trash and debris.

In 2016, the state announced it was going to sell the property. The town expressed interest in possibly using the site for affordable housing but balked at the asking price of $485,000 and a stipulation the town would be responsible for the cleanup of any possible environmental contamination.

Macris said he purchased the site for $490,000 last year and has since removed 20 tons of trash and debris from the property.

Macris, who plans to use part of the building for his company that designs and manufactures underwater boat lighting, said he was familiar with the armory site because he grew up on nearby Denison Avenue. He said he saw it languishing when he moved back from working in Boston.

“I thought it would be an awesome place to put a business and prevent any sort of misdevelopment,” he said.

Macris said he likes the idea of preserving buildings, adding that it is more environmentally friendly to reuse a building than construct a new one.

“The goal of the Armory project is preservation rather than development,” states his application.

Neighbors previously opposed the town’s idea of affordable housing on the site, which is zoned for single-family homes and duplexes on 10,000-square-foot lots.

Macris said he has been discussing his plan with neighbors since the summer and has asked them to bring their concerns to him so he can address them.

He said he already has taken a blighted property and cleaned it up. He said some neighbors were concerned he would clear cut the hilltop site but he plans to install landscaping to keep it green. Existing trees will be maintained to buffer the building from the neighborhood.

“We want to make it safe, clean and not an eyesore,” he said.

Macris said the project would generate little traffic, as it would employ between 10 and 20 people. He said he already has interest from individuals and emerging businesses about leasing space in the building.

His application states an environmental study shows the site is not contaminated and the building is structurally sound. He has, however, repaired the roof and replaced windows and doors.

No structural changes or new exterior construction are planned and exterior lighting would be kept to a minimum “to preserve the neighborhood tranquility,” according to the application.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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