Killingworth resident and developer Eugene (Gene) Gargiulo, who owns the two properties formerly known as the Pharmedica campus, is giving the digs an extreme makeover, transforming the ghost town into apartments and creating spaces for commercial businesses. Gargiulo, who owns Gargiulo Construction and M&M Realty Holdings, LLC says, “It’s a big investment and I know the town needs it so I’ll try to capitalize on it one way or the other.”
M&M Realty Holdings LLC, which landed fifth in Killingworth’s Top 10 Taxpayers, will pay $50,056 in taxes based on a property value of $2,020,050 for the 2011 grand list.
Violet Godlewski, Office Manager of M&M Realty Holdings, LLC, explained that all of the 10 one-bedroom apartments, which will be available for occupancy in November, have a kitchen, living room, new appliances and a washer/dryer hookup. They are located on the third and fourth floors.
“The apartments start at 550 square feet to 875 square feet on the third floor. The fourth floor apartments are much bigger units. There are only four on the fourth floor and six on the third floor,” she said.
“The rent for units one to six starts at $950 and on the fourth floor they start at $1050. There’s an elevator, two emergency exits. Each apartment will have cable and phone outlets so all the tenant has to do is call up AT&T, Comcast to say ‘hook me up, ready to go,’” said Godlewski. Each apartment is a little bit different, she adds.
According to Godlewski, “a potential tenant in the other building is a gym.”
Zoning Enforcement Officer Cathie Jefferson said “it’s very difficult now to find businesses that are going to take over buildings of that size.”
The thought for a long time was “to break it up into smaller businesses but Mr. Gargiulo spent a lot of time trying to get businesses to come in there but wasn’t having a whole lot of luck,” she said adding, “he thought that it might be appropriate to have mixed uses in there.”
“It started a couple of years ago when he came to the Commission and had discussions about turning it into total apartments, which the Commission was not in favor of,” Jefferson explained.
“Then he came back a while ago and proposed a zoning change that would allow in that large commercial district around the circle to be able to have a mixed use, which is apartments and commercial in that building, and there’s a whole set of regulations that got approved.”
Basically, the regulations say that apartments cannot comprise more than 50 percent of the building and the maximum number of units that can be put in is 10.
Additionally, “It makes sure that all the units have access from inside with a lobby and elevator and things like that. The Commission wants control over things like that,” she said.
Once the regulation was approved, Gargiulo applied for this undertaking.
As far as the commercial businesses, Jefferson reported “Anything that’s allowed in our commercial district that fits in there – they obviously have contraints because of septic size and parking and things like that.”
The idea is to have businesses on the first and second floor that would be supported in part by those who live upstairs.
Currently, she said, he is “trying to get that nice mix of commercial and residential.”
The target market for the apartments is just about anyone and, with no apartment buildings in town, there aren’t very many apartments.
The ZEO explains, “There is a need for young people (24 to 30) that lived in the area that want to stay around here. There’s also people interested in having elderly parents nearby that are not nursing home ready but they want to have them nearby that are looking at it. Even a young, married couple that can’t afford a huge house right now but want to be in the area. There’s also people who want to downsize but don’t want to leave the area or maybe don’t want to live in Jensen’s. There aren’t a lot of options in between.”
There are regulations that allow one to have an apartment in your home. “It can’t be in a detached building and you need to come to the Commission and get permission,” she said.
According to Gargiulo, renters might include “older people, singles, younger people, divorced people who want to stay in the area – an array of people like that. We’ll have a pick of all.”
A restaurant, he said, probably would not fit in because the property is “low visibility.” He adds, “It’s set up for office personnel. What would be ideal would be a psychiatrist. People have to go to other towns for something like that. There’s smaller spaces for people like doctors who don’t need high visibility but need an easy location with access in and out.”
To add to the 10 apartments, Gargiulo would “like to get at least five more for that building and the future holds the possibility of another physical building being put on the site because there’s another building lot.”
According to the developer, “The zoning board wants to make sure it’s accepted to the public as if they’re dictating what goes there and doesn’t go there. It’s a small town – they have the right to say it but only for so long and to the point where it’s costing you money, you got to get a lawyer and fight the town. It stinks because the town’s so stubborn you might have to do that.”
He points out the benefits to the town: “All the personal vehicles will be there and personal properties if they live in Killingworth are taxed to Killingworth. And once I remodel the building, they’re going to get full tax base again so they’re winning all the way around.”
Gargiulo adds, “Yet, they’re still stubborn about allowing it to continue and go into an expansion of more apartments.”
Marketing of the project is light right now – “To get people to look at the apartments, there’s just a sign out front. We’re just flying by the seat of our pants right now.”