State $200,000 grant could lead Rocky Hill closer to redeveloping prime Connecticut River property

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A new $200,000 grant to explore industrial brownfields on Evans Road could be a major step toward redeveloping a prime waterfront property in Rocky Hill, Mayor Lisa Marotta said Thursday.

The state is providing the money to study whether an 8-acre tract is polluted, which town officials said is a necessary step before private developers will pursue plans for a marina, restaurant, brewery and possible hotel.

“There’s 3,000 feet along the riverfront with a view of the Glastonbury marina. There’s a possibility for a deepwater dock — that’s rare and spectacular,” Marotta said. “There’s just so much potential there.”

Boondoggle Beers was interested several years ago in opening a brewery on the site along the Connecticut River, but ultimately chose a Wethersfield property because of concerns about the Rocky Hill land.

But the company is still seeking investors to help it build a production facility and tasting room at the Rocky Hill site.

“It will become our main production brewery and distribution center. We are planning on a 20-30 BBL brewhouse, canning line and distribution facility,” the company says on its website. “The tasting room will be on the bluff overlooking the river.

“We will build you a ‘beach’ to take advantage of the views and a second bar to create an outdoor summer tasting room,” it said. “We are also planning to expand the dock to allowing for seating or even weddings.”

Currently the land is owned by ADC Enterprises, a construction company that uses it primarily for storage and for truck parking.

“It is the town’s and ADC Enterprises’ intent to redevelop the under-utilized, obsolete brownfield site into a vibrant, environmentally clean property that will contribute positively to the economy and the surrounding environment,” according to a report earlier this year by Rocky Hill’s economic development department.

“The redevelopment of the project site has the potential to generate and sustain millions of dollars of non-residential tax revenue and provide hundreds of jobs,” Economic Development Director Ray Carpentino wrote.

But town officials noted that commercial and industrial developers have shied away from the property for more than 20 years because of unknown costs if the land proves to be contaminated.

Last summer, town staff and ADC pitched Mark Lewis, brownfields coordinator with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, on the idea of a grant to determine the extent of pollution. DEEP granted the town’s application for funding this spring.

If the testing shows contamination, the town will apply for a remediation grant similar to the funding being used at the former Ames headquarters site.

Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration last year awarded $500,000 toward environmental cleanup of the Ames property, and DEEP has indicated it may provide another $500,000 to $1 million.

Similar to the waterfront land, Rocky Hill spent years trying to draw developers to build on the Ames property — but without success. Belfonti Companies LLC now is pursuing a plan to build 93 one-bedroom apartments and 120 two-bedroom units on the 12-acre property.

ADC and the town have been working with Boondoggle for three years on a way to use part of the waterfront land, and Carpentino estimated that the long-range value of redevelopment could reach $20 million if a small hotel is eventually included in the plan.

Rocky Hill has already revised its zoning regulations to create a waterfront zone that would allow hospitality, recreational, office, retail, marine and commercial uses.

“We really want to be able to do something there. That property has the potential to be so vibrant,” Marotta said.