As published in the Record Journal, Wednesday January 16, 2013
WALLINGFORD - Plans to renovate a long abandoned building next to Town Hall took another step forward this week.
The Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday night approved Joe Gouveia’s proposal to turn the former American Legion building on South Main Street into two apartments.
“Everything went well,” Gouveia said of the meeting.
The Town Council voted to sell the town-owned building at 41 S. Main St. to Gouveia last year for $75,000. He had originally planned to turn the house into a mixed use building with an office on the first floor and apartments on the second and third floors, but changed the proposal to a wholly residential building.
With his site plan approved, Gouveia said the next step is to formally close on the property and work out some water and sewer issues. After that work to the interior of the 1890s building can begin. The property has been vacant for about 20 years.
“I expect some issues, but nothing that can’t be fixed,” Gouveia said.
Jerry Farrell Jr., a lawyer and former town councilor, is assisting Gouveia with the purchase. He said Gouveia’s plans call for the use of only one parking space in the lot shared with Town Hall. His restoration will also leave intact most of the features of the house, including an ornate staircase and two fireplaces, Farrell said.
The town bought the building at a foreclosure auction in 1994 for $190,000, with the intent of razing it and using the property for Town Hall expansion or additional parking. But after years of litigation, a New Haven Superior Court judge ruled in February 2011 that the house, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, could not be demolished. The town then began trying to sell the property.
Farrell said he was happy to see a buyer close to a deal with the town. Several previous offers have been rejected by the Town Council and the last buyer to have a plan approved backed out several months later.
“It’s sort of been a long running story that hopefully will have a fairy tale ending,” Farrell said.
Gouveia had submitted three previous offers for the building, including a 2011 proposal to buy it for $100,000 and turn it into a wine bar and coffee lounge. But after the council expressed concerns about parking and other issues, he withdrew the offer.
“I think that would have been the best use of the building,” Gouveia said.
Regardless, Gouveia said, he is interested in the property because he has an appreciation of older buildings in the downtown area.
Gouveia has been rehabbing buildings since the 1970s and owns three rental properties downtown, two are fully residential and one is mixed use, with a lawyer’s office in it.
“Old houses are beautiful,” Gouveia said. “They have a lot of style and craft. I love the building. I would have hated to see it come down.”