Middletown approves plan for apartments and retail in about 1,800 buildings

Middletown approves plan for apartments and retail in about 1,800 buildings

MIDDLETOWN — A developer who razed a former furniture store in a circa-1800 building in the city’s north end, where 12 studio apartments and retail space will be built, won zoning approval last week on the condition that adequate parking be secured.

Durham developer Dominic DiMartino, who is redeveloping a number of historic buildings downtown, received site plan approval on Oct. 25 to rebuild a mixed-use building at 584 Main St., the former site of Schlen Furniture Co., which was demolished in mid-August.

The plan is to build 3,400 square feet of retail space on the ground floor and 12 studio apartments above it, expected to be completed next fall.

The Design Review and Preservation Board approved increasing the building’s height by just over a foot, DiMartino told planning and zoning commissioners, according to a video of the meeting.

In order to comply with the zoning code, the structure will be 35 feet tall, Land Use Director Marek Kozikowski said. It is proposed to be five feet lower than that.

“We could have done something to make it a little longer, but we thought it was restrictive…to try to keep it the way it was,” the developer said at the meeting.

When the structure was demolished, only 25 to 30 percent of the front was removed, and the left rear portion was kept in place, DiMartino added.

He said he received grants totaling $300,000 from ARPA and state Department of Economics and Development funds to bring it down.

In total, more than $20 million will be invested in the project, DiMartino said.

A wrought-iron balcony was incorporated into the project, which, DiMartino said, received praise from Design Review. “On the north end, anything we give it that will give it a little more lift is really helpful. It adds a nice feature to the building,” he told commissioners.

He’s also redeveloping 428 Main St., the old Woolworth building, to make way for a rooftop bar, a steakhouse and more retail.

The board then discussed having the developer secure eight to nine parking spaces on a city-owned parcel behind the Schlen Building for which a lease has not yet been prepared.

DiMartino described the area as a “classic landfill,” adding that he has filed dozens of complaints with the city asking them to clean up the waste. “This is an area that needs development,” he told board members.

“This is a piece of property that has not been operated in several decades, and the area that we have under a (limited) contract to use has been, since I have owned the building — in the last six or seven years — a dumping ground. The land is an area for stolen or unregistered cars.

“I would rather it be used and cleaned than as a place for waste,” said Thomas Pattavina, Chairman of the PZC Board of Directors.

Besides raising the height, DiMartino addressed another issue with rainwater collection on the roof. The previous owner installed a new sewer line running through the building to Ferry Street, DiMartino said.

The city does not allow rainwater to flow into the sewer line, so DiMartino said he will work with the city to make sure the water is separated.

Kozikowski told the committees they could delay issuing a certificate of occupancy until a lease for the tenants’ parking spaces is obtained.

The measure was approved unanimously on the condition that DiMartino secure adequate parking for the residential units, as Commissioner Giuliano suggested.

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