DANBURY, Conn. — Danbury plans to purchase the historic Octagon House on Spring Street and convert it for use as city offices in an effort to renew the surrounding neighborhood, Mayor Mark Boughton announced in the pouring rain Tuesday on a press conference held on Periscope.
It will cost about "$100,000, a little bit more," to purchase the dilapidated building, Boughton said. The city would then spend "several $100,000" more to restore it to its original glory.
The city will negotiate with its owner, Mellon Bank in New York, to buy the unusual house, which was built in 1856 but is now boarded up and in disrepair. It is located near the Dorothy Day soup kitchen and homeless shelter, which has come under fire recently for being a bad neighbor.
"We will buy and convert it for city services," Boughton said of the Octagon House. Those uses will include relocating the UNIT, establishing a police substation and planting a community garden, along with establishing an office to run the garden.
The UNIT, or the Unified Neighborhood Inspection Team, combats neighborhood concerns ranging from illegal apartments, blight, parking violations, neighborhood nuisances and overcrowded, unsafe living conditions.
"This is a chance to restore this neighborhood to where it should be," Boughton said, adding, "I can't believe this rain."
The mayor credited the neighbors with working to improve the area, which is located in the heart of downtown and barely a block from an under-construction upscale apartment development known as 1 Kennedy Flats.
"We are very excited about this. We believe that the residents have worked very, very hard about sharing their frustrations and concerns with the street, particularly with the area being so close to Dorothy Day," Boughton said from under an umbrella.
"We thinks this will put a footprint, make a statement to the residents of Spring Street and those who want to live here ... but also to Dorothy Day that we will work collaboratively with them but be sure that we won't tolerate some of the behaviors that have been seen in the last couple of years."
Area residents have complained about issues from littering and loitering, to prostitution, drug use and fighting among homeless people who frequent the area.
The purchase will take 60 to 90 days, Boughton estimated, with 18 months of renovation work to follow. He said the work would be funded with city dollars and grant money.
"This is very successful in taking back neighborhoods," said Police Chief Al Baker. "It's great to have the city backing a project like this."
The City Council must approve the purchase. If the council does not give the go-ahead, the city will seek to seize the property through eminent domain, Boughton said.
View the entire press conference here.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.