MERIDEN — The city agreed to a settlement with Hartford HealthCare this week that ensures the healthcare network will pay $300,000 toward cleanup costs at the blighted former Meriden-Wallingford Hospital.
City councilors met in executive session Monday for a briefing on terms of the settlement, then voted to approve the deal after a year-long negotiation between city and Hartford HealthCare officials, according to Mayor Kevin Scarpati.
Hartford HealthCare is the parent company of MidState Medical Center, which sold the Cook Avenue building more than 20 years ago after relocating to a new facility on Lewis Avenue. The city, which eventually assumed ownership of the five-acre Cook Avenue property, has spent more than $4 million to remediate the 325,000 square foot building.
“We obviously spent a great deal of time, resources and funding to clean the building,” Scarpati said. “We felt there might be some obligation for things that might have been left.”
Scarpati said Hartford HealthCare acknowledged its community responsibility and agreed to the financial terms. Once the deal is finalized, a public statement from both parties will be forthcoming, said City Manager Tim Coon.
“We’re happy to get $300,000,” Coon said. “It was a fair settlement. It was an amicable discussion. We appreciate a good corporate citizen like MidState.”
Hartford HealthCare representatives could not be reached for comment.
At one point during the negotiations, the talks centered on the city’s need for soccer fields that will be removed in MidState’s latest expansion. But Monday’s settlement did not include any field replacement, officials said.
The former Meriden-Wallingford Hospital building has been vacant since it closed in 1998 and the hospital was moved to Lewis Avenue under the new name MidState Medical Center. Since then, subsequent property owners have struggled to find tenants to occupy the building and it’s been included in bankruptcy proceedings several times. The city finally acquired it in a foreclosure.
The city has since paid more than $4 million to rid the property of debris, asbestos and other environmental and safety hazards with the help of a $2 million state Department of Economic and Community Development brownfields loan and $2 million in grants.The DECD approved the 20-year loan, with 1 percent interest for five years. The outstanding principal and interest will be forgiven if the property is transferred to a private developer.
The city selected One King LLC as the developer and signed an agreement in June 2017 to transform the structure and two-story parking garage into a housing and commercial complex.
The plan includes senior housing, market-rate housing, medical offices, a walk-in clinic, and a grocery store. There are also discussions about leasing space to move the city’s senior center to the site.
“I think it’s good for the city to finish the remediation and now we are ready to go forward with the contract with the developer,” said City Councilor Bruce Fontanella, who was part of the committee that looked at the city’s hospital needs in the 1990s.
“The contract is coming up,” Fontanella said. “At that time, we’ll see what efforts have been made.”
One King LLC has committed to spending $30 million on the project and is expected to request an extension on its agreement. It will also present updated plans to city officials, Scarpati said.
“Before the council votes on an extension we intend to have the developer come before us,” Coon said.
City Economic Development Director Joseph Feest was part of the team that negotiated the settlement with MidState. He said MidState and Hartford HealthCare “stepped up” and the agreement shows the city has a “great working relationship” with the hospital.