Concepts being developed for Campbell Grain site in downtown Pawcatuck

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Stonington — The Economic Development Commission is working with a Westerly architect to develop conceptual plans for the former Campbell Grain building site in downtown Pawcatuck as a way to spur its redevelopment.

On Thursday morning, committee members met with architect Paul Azzinaro to review his initial sketches. Committee Chairman Dave Hammond said members suggested some changes that Azzinaro will incorporate in revised sketches.

Hammond stressed that no decisions have been made and that the committee hopes to present the sketches to residents at a public forum or workshop this fall.

“We want to echo what the community says, what they like,” he said.

Property owner Frank DeCiantis has listed the two-acre site for $1 million on the commercial real estate website Loopnet. The commission and planning department already have assisted DeCiantis by developing a marketing brochure for the property, which sits at the end of Coggswell Street and has 200 feet of frontage along the Pawcatuck River.

“To me this is a keystone property in Pawcatuck. If we get the right project in there, it will revitalize the whole downtown area and make it the place to be,” Hammond said.

The initial concept calls for a multistory building with commercial space on the first floor and residential units above and possible separate town homes to break up site lines and help the project blend in with the neighborhood. The PV-5 zone, which was implemented several years ago to spur redevelopment in downtown Pawcatuck, allows for mixed-use projects and increased density.

Hammond said such projects would attract new residents to the downtown who would be able to walk to shops and restaurants, helping to support them and keeping the downtown vibrant.

The EDC obtained a $3,000 grant from Washington Trust, which it matched with $3,000 from its own budget to hire Azzinaro to develop the conceptual designs.

“By having a conceptual drawing, it helps create a conversation to get the public on board with the future vision for the property,” Hammond said. “We want to do this in partnership with the community.”

He said developing conceptual plans would help lessen the financial risk for interested developers because it would offer ideas about what could possibly be done on the site. The conceptual plans also will have to be presented to residents and possibly town boards and commissions to gain some informal feedback.

Last summer, DeCiantis completed a demolition of the property after the town proposed to do the work, place a lien on the property and possibly foreclose on it.

DeCiantis had begun the demolition in 2016 and was financing the work by selling the posts and beams recycled from the building. But after 80 percent of the structure was taken down, he found that there was no more salvage value in taking down the rest, so the work ceased. He told town officials at the time he did not have the money to complete the demolition.

The town also has a $77,000 lien on the property for work it did to demolish a section of the building damaged in 2011 by Hurricane Irene.

Town officials hope that removing the building will make the parcel more attractive to a developer and remove a fire hazard. First Selectman Rob Simmons has said it is in the town’s interest to see the site redeveloped for residential or commercial use, as that would bring in much more tax revenue than the current $109,000 assessment.

The EDC also has envisioned building a bridge over the river to link the end of Coggswell Street and the Campbell Grain site with thriving downtown Westerly and its nearby railroad station. There is no funding as of yet to do that.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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