August 8, 2020
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The Unilever lot, occupying roughly 20 acres at the intersection of Hull and John streets, has been vacant for seven years. A proposal for a special exception before the Planning & Zoning Commission may soon see that change. File photo by Jessica Smith/Harbor News

The Unilever lot, occupying roughly 20 acres at the intersection of Hull and John streets, has been vacant for seven years. A proposal for a special exception before the Planning & Zoning Commission may soon see that change. (File photo by Jessica Smith/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)

Indoor Rec Use First Proposal for Former Unilever Site

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Residents can learn more—and express support of and concerns about—a proposed zoning exception to allow commercial indoor recreation use of the long-shuttered Unilever property at a Planning & Zoning Commission (PZC) public hearing on Monday Aug. 26.

The proposed use is for the main level of the factory floor at 1 John Street, not the original multi-story Pond’s building. The sale of multiple parcels, all part of the former Unilever campus, were filed with the Town Clerk’s Office on July 23. Residential and brewery uses have also been discussed for the site, which will have pedestrian access to Shoreline East train service when station upgrades are completed.

The application was received and briefly discussed at a regular PZC meeting on Aug. 12. The PZC encountered a confusing situation shortly after the application was submitted.

According to the town’s consultant planner, John Guszkowski, a previous application for a special exception for a commercial recreation facility at the former Unilever facility was filed in 2015 with the town clerk, but it wasn’t noted in the land use files. Guszkowski said that, due to time constraints related to that application, it had expired, meaning this is an entirely new application.

The documents on file in the land use office list total square footage of the building as 312,345, but the area affected by the proposed change of use is 217,471 square feet. The proposed hours of operations listed in the application are from 5 a.m. through 1 a.m., seven days a week.

There was speculation that the developers would ask for a special exception that would allow them to use the existing buildings for a brewery and restaurant, in addition to the indoor recreation area, however the first application filed is for the recreational use only.

The application for the special exception was filed by 1 John Street Clinton, LLC, which lists Michael Massimino as the owner. According to the town’s zoning regulations, the special exception would allow for activities such as “indoor pools, indoor ice rinks, indoor sports fields, indoor running/jogging tracks, indoor gymnasiums, indoor archery ranges, [and] indoor shooting ranges.”

The current application is the latest in a long line of efforts to being an indoor recreation facility to Clinton. In 2013, the town disbursed a $200,000 grant to Shoreline Ice, LLC, to conduct a feasibility study to build an ice rink at the former dump site on Old Nod Road; that effort failed. Later proposals included installing indoor soccer fields and an ice rink at the Unilever site, which until now had not materialized.

Coincidentally, the site of a former Unilever warehouse in Clinton located at 30 Old Post Road may also be the future site of an application for an indoor recreation center in Clinton. The PZC approved changes to the zoning regulations in early 2019 that would allow for the possible construction of an indoor recreation complex in Clinton’s I-2 zones where the property is located.

News of the sale of the Unilever property has been a hot topic in Clinton since the sale was announced in late July. The seven parcels located 0 John Street, 9-15 John Street, 25 John Street, 0 North High Street, 13 Central Avenue, and 0 West Main Street were sold to two different owners. Some were sold to Clinton Realty Associates, LLC, while others were sold to R&R Clinton Ventures, LLC, Clinton Ventures II, LLC, and Clinton Ventures III, LLC. Richard G. di Girolamo is listed as the principal of Clinton Ventures while Clinton Realty Associates list Massimino as its principle.

The PZC hearing will take place in Town Hall at 7 p.m. on Aug. 26.

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