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Gilbert & Bennett Wire Mill: the Future is Now.

Updated: Oct 26, 2021

Continuous progress under my leadership has given rise to the hope that the Wire Mill can once again be a contributor to Redding's tax base.

Environmental and structural assessments will begin this fall funded by a state grant of $200,000, to be followed in 2022 by a community planning process.

Gilbert and Bennett Wire Mill: Sawtooth Building along the Norwalk River

Promise Made, Promise Kept.

When I took office as Redding's First Selectman I pledged to focus like a laser on the stagnated redevelopment of the Gilbert & Bennett Wire mill property, a hulking mass of old factory buildings sitting largely abandoned at the gateway to Redding, since 1989.

I pledged to use the power of the Town to unlock the potential of the historic wire mill to be what was intended when the Gilbert and Bennett Wire Mill closed in 1989, a mixed use walkable village that would provide a multitude of housing options, commercial and retail space, public spaces, and even perhaps a Georgetown train station.

A Brief History

By 2002, the Gilbert & Bennett Company was bankrupt and owed back taxes to the Town. The Town of Redding sold the liens, about $1,000,000, to a developer who would become the Georgetown Land Development Co. (GLDC). GLDC worked with the Town and over a period of years, a Master Plan for development was approved by the Redding Zoning Commission in 2005.

Fast forward to 2009. With the project stalled for lack of funds, a project that began with much fanfare in 2002 was failing. Potential buyers came and went with no explanation as to why the deals never closed. Redding residents were left in the dark about the financial and environmental morass that engulfed the failed development.

A Winning Strategy for Redding

Upon taking office in November of 2013, having pledged a new approach, I dug in to the land records and the financial dealings of the taxing district and the developer. I uncovered a wire mill site with significant environmental contamination, a mountain of debt, an insolvent developer, a tangle of investors, and complex legal issues.

The conclusion we came to, after discussions with GLDC and financially invested parties, was that the only way to clean up title to the Mill to facilitate future developmen and preserve the rights of Redding taxpayers, was to foreclose on the Wire Mill property.

In 2015, with the unanimous support of the Board of Finance and the Board of Selectmen, I took the fight for the Wire Mill to court.

In September 2016, the Superior Court ruled in favor of the Town. The developer appealed and the case went up to the Connecticut Supreme Court. View press release at the end of this post

On December 17, 2019, the CT Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Town of Redding et al V Georgetown Land Development Co LLC et al. Shortly after, the courts shut down for Covid.

On September 21, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled in the Town's favor. Redding won!

Redding gets title, $250k in new annual revenue

On February 16th 2021, the Town took title to the property. There are complex issues that remain. but for the first time in over 20 years Redding is in the drivers seat, can determine the best future use of the property, is protected from liability, and has a new revenue stream. $250,000 in annual income from the tenants on the site.

A Vision for the Future: Assess, Engage, Plan

2021 - 2022: The next two years set the table

With ownership of the mill in the Town of Redding's hands, I secured a $200,00 Brownfield Assessment grant (June 2021) from the Connecticut Department of Economic Development's Brownfields program to take the necessary first steps, deliberately, into the future.

A community engagement process will begin in 2022, where Redding's citizens will collaborate on a collective vision for redevelopment of the Gilbert and Bennett Wire Mill.

The $200,000 grant will fund the hiring of a qualified engineering firm to project manage and a licensed environmental professional (LEP) to perform a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment. An engineering assessment of the Norwalk River Walls can also be funded by this grant.

  1. Environmental Site Assessment: Phase I - October 2021 start - estimated 4 month turnaround and if necessary, targeted Phase II

  2. Engineering Assessment: Norwalk River Walls

  3. Community Engagement: Plan for the future uses of the site

Following the initial assessments funded by the $200,000 grant, the Town is eligible to apply to future grant rounds of up to $2mm per grant, to fund additional assessments, planning activities, and remediation of contaminated materials.

Finally, I also pledged to bring transparency to an issue that had previously been clouded. Several years of meetings, talks, public forums, expert panels in which detailed public explanations of all of the issues legal, financial, environmental, confronting this wire mill site were given attest this.Many of these presentations can be found on the Town's website. The public forums were recorded and are also available from Redding's CH 79.

I ask for your Vote. Why?

At this critical juncture, now more than ever, a driven and experienced leader, fluent in all aspects of this site and its complex and complicated issues, is what is required to chart a successful course for the evolution of Gilbert and Bennett Wire Mill from what it is today, to what it can be in the future. The progress that has been made to date, complicated and complex as it was, was only a beginning. There are complex issues that remain, compared to a traditional development. These include a defunct special taxing district and defaulted bonds. This is a legacy of the prior developer, and was not wiped out by the town's foreclosure.

The redevelopment of the Wire Mill site will forever change the face of historic Georgetown and its surrounds. We have one chance to do right by the Wire Mill, for our community, and for the generations to come.

I have knowledge gained from thousands of hours of research and counsel from experts in public finance, authorities on brownfield redevelopment, and related legal, environmental and land use fields. I have the relationships cultivated over several years in pursuit of one goal: unlock the potential of the Wire Mill to enhance Redding's quality of life, broaden the tax base, reduce the tax burden on residential property owners, . Every step of the way, I seek out the advice and counsel of experts in their fields, whether legal, environmental, governmental, and political, with the knowledge and desire to help me, help Redding. I've shared that knowledge with my colleagues, and with the publice, and I bring that to bear when plotting a course to lead the Town through the next phase of the Wire Mill redevelopment effort. The redevelopment of the Wire Mill site will forever change the face of historic Georgetown and its surrounds. We have one chance to do right by the Wire Mill, for our community, and for the generations to come. Together we can continue to build on the progress made to date, to plan a future for the Georgetown Wire Mill that enhances Redding, provides a walkable downtown village, a boost to our local economy, supports our property values.

I ask for your Vote on November 2, 2021 to continue this work on your behalf.

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