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Feds foil New Haven’s depot plans

August 17, 2018

The city of New Haven might not be buying the sprawling former Casad Depot after all.

The federal government announced Thursday it had put the 259-acre site, with its 712,000 square feet of industrial space in multiple buildings, on the auction block.

Brian Yoh, New Haven’s director of planning and economic development, said the auction apparently came about after long-term negotiations between the city and the federal General Services Administration fell apart over disputed appraisals.

The city had planned to buy the property along Dawkins Road east of New Haven, tear down the World War II-era buildings and develop a mile-long industrial park. 

Yoh said the city’s appraisal came in at under $2 million, while the government’s was well over that value.

He said he could not recall the exact figure, but officials previously placed it at $2.3 million.

“It almost got to the point there was an impasse,” he said, adding, “It was a substantial spread between them (the two appraisals), and that’s always difficult to deal with.”

The agency also wanted to take a cut of the money should the site later be sold. 

According to the GSA announcement, the starting bid is 25,000 returnable deposit.

The agency is hosting site tours Sept. 5 and 13.

The auction, being conducted online, opened last month, but no bidders have come forward, the auction’s website says.

The closing date is not listed, Yoh said, and it’s unclear whether there is any reserve price.

Last year, New Haven Mayor Terry McDonald obtained a commitment of up to 1.5 million.

But Yoh said he is now unsure the city will participate in the auction.

Nothing would prohibit the city from bidding, he said, but the GSA made the city aware that remediation of lead paint and asbestos was needed, which would complicate demolition and could raise the cost of remediation by millions.

“It became difficult to justify (spending) taxpayers’ money for a project with significant unknowns,” Yoh said.

“I guess our position is that we’re still investigating the options. We’re not going to ignore it. But I don’t want it to be thought that we’re going to be going knee-deep into bidding.”

The federal government touts the site : which stored defense-related materials, including hazardous chemicals and heavy metals before closing in 1981 : as having convenient access to Interstate 469 and railroad transportation. 

But Yoh said other attractive and undeveloped New Haven-area sites are available. The depot’s buildings are outdated, he said.

If the city does decide to bid, Yoh said, it would have to approach the CIB to modify the funding agreement.

“This (auction) is a totally different process than negotiating a simple sale,” Yoh said.

rsalter@jg.net

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