Stratford still readying request for proposals on downtown property

Photo of Ethan Fry

STRATFORD — Town officials hope to have a new request for proposals for the former Center School property ready by the end of next month.

And the chairman of the town’s Redevelopment Agency said he hopes the new RFP will avoid pitfalls that have stymied prior attempts to draw interest to the property.

“We’re trying to get this as open as we can to encourage participation,” the chairman, George Perham, said during the agency’s monthly meeting earlier this week. “We have to make sure we don’t have the same stumbling blocks that we had in the past by maybe being too precise.”

His comments come after two members of the Town Council called for more openness in the process surrounding the three-acre downtown property the town has been unable to figure out what to do with for years.

The redevelopment agency unveiled a “preferred developer” for the site last year, but the town walked away after the developer’s plans for a 132-unit apartment development were widely panned.

Mayor Laura Hoydick said during a Town Council meeting this month another request for proposals was being readied, targeting it to go out by the end of this month.

Perham said Tuesday that “a little bit of progress has been made.”

Economic Development Director “Mary Dean and the mayor and I have had conversations with our consultants in regards to the RFP,” Perham said.

“We’re in the process of developing that, coming up with the proper language based on all the input and information we’ve received in the past from the mayor, our consultants, Mary Dean and the council,” he said.

Still unresolved — how exactly the current school board building and an 18th century home owned by the town abutting the property could play into the redevelopment.

Perham said town officials have expressed interest in having podium or below-surface parking, which could have an impact on how surrounding properties are used.

“We’re still looking at that a little bit further,” he said. “I don’t think we have all the details yet on that.”

He said he and Dean would have more talks with the mayor next week. “Keep your fingers crossed and we’re moving forward.”

Anthony Nizzardo asked Perham for a timeline for the RFP — which will be the third seeking proposals for the property.

“We’re hoping for the middle, and if not, hopefully at the latest the end of March,” he said.

After the mayor’s announcement that another RFP was in the works, two Democrats on the Town Council, Kaitlyn Shake and Greg Cann, called for more transparency in the process.

Cann said Wednesday that his “persistent requests over the past three years that (the) town engage with industry experts to assure we received the desired level and quality of response were never acknowledged.”

“Being excluded from the RFP process, I can only presume ‘third time is charmed,’” he said, before echoing Perham’s closing comments to the Redevelopment Agency: “Fingers crossed.”