Officials in Waterbury and Naugatuck have approved a land deal with Bluewater Property Group, which hopes to develop the next Amazon distribution center in Connecticut.
The agreement will allow Bluewater to buy a 157-acre parcel of land from the two municipalities that sits mostly in Waterbury for $2.5 million.
But there’s a long road ahead before Bluewater acquires the property. The Pennsylvania-based developer will now begin determining if it can actually build on the land.
“You’re essentially taking a mountain and chiseling it out and building a facility on top of that. It’s extremely complicated,” said Thomas Hyde, chief executive officer of the Naugatuck Valley Regional Development Corporation. Hyde has been working with municipalities to develop various parcels of land in the Naugatuck River Valley to increase job opportunities and tax revenue for the area.
The land Bluewater wants to develop is mostly forested, and the group will spend a few million dollars over the next two years on feasibility studies. Hyde says that regulations require the group to understand how adding an Amazon warehouse will affect traffic on the Route 8 corridor and how the facility will impact wetlands and create light pollution. Bluewater will also have to create plans to mitigate all those impacts.
Bilal Tajildeen, who lives in Waterbury, doesn’t see how it will help Waterbury residents to bring in low-paying jobs. The site is expected to create 1,000 jobs and generate significant tax revenue for both municipalities.
“The only people who profit from this development are Bluewater and Amazon,” Tajildeen said, “and they profit at the expense of the people.”
Amazon’s website says the average hourly starting wage is $18. Last year, the company increased salaries from a standard of $15 per hour by 50 cents to $3 per hour depending on location. The living wage for an adult with no children is $19.32 per hour, according to MIT’s Living Wage calculator. Wage ranges are not advertised on the company’s job website. A third-party job site advertises existing Waterbury-based Amazon jobs at a pay rate of “up to $17.75 per hour.”
“The extractive relationship between the city and its residents only gets worse,” Tajildeen said. He wonders how many of those 1,000 jobs will go to Waterbury residents. “Will those jobs put them in a better place a few years down the line? Will it help them with debt or homeownership?”
Hyde says this deal marks a significant moment in the Naugatuck Valley’s economic development goals. “The reality is this has been on both municipalities’ radars, Waterbury specifically, for over 30 years,” he said.
The Naugatuck Valley Regional Development Corporation and Bluewater will hold community information sessions in mid-June.