The massive former headquarters of Ames Inc sits atop a crest above Main Street near the Silas Deane Highway junction. Resembling an abandoned warehouse, the structure's windows are boarded and its sidings rusted and defaced by graffiti.
Ames shuttered its chain of department stores in 2002. In 2005, the company's deserted corporate center in Rocky Hill was sold to Haven LLC, a real estate firm that has since been unable to locate a developer for the property.
The town tried to address the Ames blight in 2008. A redevelopment plan was drafted and submitted to the Planning and Zoning Commission for review. The plan was suspended a year later, however, when the owners began to make legal rumblings.
On Sept. 11, the Redevelopment Agency rescinded the suspension at the behest of economic development coordinator Ray Carpentino. Since the plan's reinstatement, Carpentino has begun to work with Haven LLC to solicit proposals and cost quotes from developers.
Carpentino will also meet with with town attorney Morris Borea to discuss the possibility of designating the location a "rehabilitation area" instead of a "redevelopment area.” The change in legal status "opens up the town to the availability of tax incentives that are not available right now," Carpentino said.
"We're trying to make the property more attractive to a developer who would maybe think about paying the asking price if there was some sort of subsidy in return," he said.
Economic Development Committee Chairman Larrye deBear endorsed the approach, saying that “the use of the incentives will probably be helpful" in luring a buyer.
Carpentino believes that the site's $7.5 million price tag is prohibitive without subsidies. "Otherwise, the price-tag on that property is not going to work," he said
Officials have also discussed the use of "eminent domain", but will only entertain the measure after other means of redress have been exhausted.