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Danbury to repurpose, restore historic Octagon House

Danbury officials want to purchase the Octagon House on Spring Street and turn it into a multi-use building.  Mayor Mark Boughton is asking  the City Council for authority to begin negotiations with the bank that holds the title to the house.  It is located on 21 Spring Street.


The plan calls for locating the Unified Neighborhood Inspection Team there, and having a police substation based at the house.  Boughton is also proposing to use the backyard as a community garden.


The eight-sided house is on the National Register of Historic Places.  The effort would preserve one of five like it left in the country.  It was built in 1852 by John Earle, an innovator in the hatting industry and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.  The house was converted to apartments, but abandoned by its owner in 2008. 


Boughton says this would promote and provide stability to the neighborhood in response to resident's complaints and concerns.  The vacant and decaying house has attracted vandalism, squatting and general blight.  The area has become a magnet for drug dealers and prostitutes. 


Boughton says the building needs $200,000 to $300,000 worth of work because it's fallen into disrepair.  The yard also needs some upkeep, and the parking would have to be reconfigured. 


The listing price is about $195,000, but Boughton says that's above what the property value is worth given the condition the house is in.  Boughton says he would like to reach a deal through negotiations, but is not ruling out eminent domain and then paying fair market value to the bank.


There are more officers on the streets now that the City has civilian dispatching, and more officers are coming out of the academy.  He says the bike patrol and other related officers would likely operate out of the substation. 


He's hoping to convert the upstairs into a community room or meeting room that residents could use if they needed an area to accommodate about 45 people. 


The community garden would be monitored by a non-profit.  A small office would be located in the house for those who manage the plots that people can use to grow vegetables.


In 2011, Boughton organized a Spring Street Improvement initiative to enhance the safety and security of the neighborhood.  As part of the initiative, Spring Street has received repaved sidewalks, troublesome trees were removed, water drainage improved and street lighting enhanced.

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Todd Schnitt

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