On September 19, Waterford will host a public meeting where the state will explain its plans to demolish Cohanzie School and then accept comment from the public.
Cohanzie School, which was built in 1923, has been vacant since 2008 after the town consolidated from five elementary schools to three. Waterford received a $457,000 grant from the state to knock down the building, remediate the land and then hopefully sell it to an interested developer.
First Selectman Dan Steward said he hopes to sell it to a developer who will turn the property into affordable housing or perhaps a mixed-use development, with affordable housing and some low-traffic businesses, like doctor offices or tax accountants. He said he would not sell the property to a developer who wants to turn it into another high-traffic shopping area.
“Retail is probably not going to be an ideal,” Steward said. “Retail creates a lot of traffic. The neighborhood has been very specific in not wanting that.”
Steward says he hopes to sell the property for more than it costs to clean up the land, which should be about the cost of the grant, or $457,000. The grant comes from the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development, but all the money from selling the property goes to the town, according to Steward. He also said there is one person interested in buying the property.
“We do have one person who is still interested,” Steward said. “We are not sure of the status because this has gotten delayed so badly.”
On September 19, Connecticut’s Department of Economic and Community Development will hold a public scoping meeting in Waterford Town Hall at 4 p.m. There, state officials will describe their plans for the property, and then accept input from the public.
The department will continue to take comments and letters from the public on the project until October 4. If no better alternative comes forward, the state will begin the process to demolish the building and then complete the environmental remediation on the property.
, Waterford Town Historian Bob Nye had the building put on the state’s historical register. That allows developers to qualify for tax breaks if they decide to reuse parts of the building, he said.
Nye also said he felt the town should seek to save the historic building. But Waterford Planning Director Tom Wagner, who described himself as somebody who encourages historic preservation, said the building is in bad shape and is an “insult” to handicapped people.
“It is the most inaccessible building I’ve ever been in in my life,” Wagner said.
Wagner said in one of the main entrances, once a person opens the front door they immediately have to walk up a flight of stairs. The building is also deteriorating, and the longer it sits, the harder it will be to reuse, Steward said.
“That’s our intention,” said Steward, when asked if he wanted to demolish the building. “Unless someone wants to get hysterical and try and save it.”