MIDDLETOWN — The State Bond Commission has approved $12 million that will help fund the environmental clean-up of sites along the waterfront as a first step in the city’s riverfront redevelopment project.
The project plan, unveiled in July, anticipates transforming 220 acres of the waterfront into a hub for restaurants, entertainment venues, mixed-income housing and a four-season park, along with biking trails and docking points for boats.
But the first step is the environmental remediation of three properties — the Peterson Oil Property, the former treatment plant and the old Jackson Corrugated Facility. Ben Florshiem, the mayor of Middletown, said that this will be the target of the $12 million, which will act as “phase one” of the remediation funds.
The $12 million was approved by the state’s Community Investment Fund, a body tasked with distributing $75 million in federal coronavirus relief projects in cities across Connecticut, in September. But the funds still needed final approval from the State Bond Commission before they could be released.
Florshiem said the city had been waiting with “bated breath” for the bond commission’s decision.
“We’re very happy about it. It’s super exciting,” said Florshiem.
According to Florshiem, the water and sewer treatment plant has already been mostly remediated by the city, but Jackson Corrugated — where the city hopes to put housing or mixed development — has more complicated needs, including tearing down the current building.
Florsheim said that the city anticipates that the $12 million will account for most of the cost of remediation. The local firm VHB is currently conducting an assessment with funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to determine how much it will cost in total to clean-up the properties in question.
The city has also sent in a “letter of interest” to participate in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Thriving Communities Program, which offers two years of “technical assistance, planning, and capacity building support” for community infrastructure projects, beginning in 2023. Florsheim said he hopes the state funding will make it more likely that Middletown will be chosen.
“We’re hoping that this investment will lend itself to more interest from the federal government, and especially as it relates to their priorities of reconnecting communities that have been impacted by highways,” said Florshiem. “Route 9 certainly puts us on that list.”
Other ongoing projects include revamping the former Harbor Park Canoe Club restaurant, which Florshiem said has completed its exterior renovations, and the development of the Arcade site in downtown Middletown. He said the city is in the process of negotiations over the site and working with the developer Spectra. For Florsheim, the first priority is developing a parking area — he said the “summer rush” in downtown Middletown hasn’t abated.
“The thing we hear about every single day is parking,” said Florshiem, adding that the city wants to put as much parking as possible underground. The city plans to do environmental testing to see how far under the ground they will be able to build.
The city expects to receive the $12 million, Florsheim said, within the next few months.