Waterbury Mayor Neil M. O’Leary has been honored by the federal Environmental Protection Agency for his work in brownfield redevelopment and community revitalization in Connecticut’s fifth-largest city.
Mayor O’Leary was among several winners recognized Tuesday May 10 at the EPA’s 2016 New England Environmental Awards in Boston. The agency honored O’Leary with its Individual Award for his work in cleaning many of Waterbury’s brownfields, remnants of the Brass City’s industrial past, and turning them back into usable property.
“By tackling complicated environmental cleanup in a manner consistent with the needs of industrial tenants, Mayor O’Leary’s team managed to get manufacturers who had planned to leave to instead remain and even expand,” the EPA’s New England Regional Office said in a statement.
“O’Leary exemplifies the leadership and passion for success necessary to develop brownfield sites.”
While a previous administration had plans to take over the Waterbury Industrial Commons, an industrial park in a renovated brownfield, and force a longtime tenant to leave, Mayor O’Leary reversed the decision, the EPA noted. The tenant, Luvata Industries, stayed and expanded while O’Leary’s Economic Development team secured another large tenant, King Industries, which is currently building a multi-million dollar facility, thus realizing O’Leary’s vision of a world-class industrial park.
The EPA also cited Mayor O’Leary’s track record of brownfield success through the creation of the Waterbury Police Activities League Complex on a restored brownfield, a project he began while police chief. And it noted that by supporting and promoting the city’s workforce, O’Leary has attracted new manufacturing, secured more than $40 million in private investment and brought more than 1,300 new jobs to Waterbury.
“I am honored to receive this award,” Mayor O’Leary said. “Our industrial past left us a legacy of dozens of brownfields. But by working with our state and federal partners, we have been able to make significant strides in reclaiming these properties, putting them back to use, creating jobs and growing our tax rolls.”
The EPA also noted Waterbury’s next planned major brownfield renovation: The expansive redevelopment of the Freight Street District, which includes the city’s train station. Mayor O’Leary has built support for the project, which involves challenging brownfields issues but offers the promise of a renaissance that will transform dozens of acres of industrial land into new transit-oriented developments designed to highlight the livability of Waterbury’s Downtown.
From right, Mayor O’Leary, his Director of Economic Development Joseph McGrath, Chief of Staff Joseph Geary and U.S. Senator Christopher Murphy, met recently on Freight Street to discuss revitalizing this former industrial area.