Torrington Savings Bank plans 3-story office building downtown

John E. Janco, president and CEO of Torrington Savings Bank, and Lesa A. Vanotti, the bank’s senior vice president, treasurer and chief financial officer, display the architectural rendering for a three-story building the bank plans to build at the site of the former Gates Cleaners on Mason Street. The bank plans to use the site for additional office space. Bruno Matarazzo Jr. Republican-American

TORRINGTON – Torrington Savings Bank is planning to erect a new three-story office building at the site of the former Gates Cleaners on Mason Street, providing the first major addition to the downtown in years.

The bank’s new space will provide more office and meeting space, something the 150-year-old bank is lacking, with offices spread across the downtown.

“We have space needs and we’re trying to look out ahead,” said John E. Janco, bank president and CEO. “We’re not trying to just address our space needs for the next two or three years.”

An architectural rendering of a three-story building Torrington Savings Bank plans to build at the site of the former Gates Cleaners on Mason Street. Contributed

“It will give us much-needed space for existing staff and allow for some growth over the next 10 to 15 years,” added Lesa A. Vanotti, the bank’s senior vice president, treasurer and chief financial officer.

In recent years, the bank has had to become creative in finding office space for staff, even converting a closet into work space. The bank has been in a growth spurt in recent years, adding new commercial lending lines and cash management services. In the past 10 years, the bank has gone from 89 full-time employees to 112 this year, and there are plans to add two to three additional full-time staffers by the end of the fiscal quarter, Vanotti said.

The bank is proposing to demolish the former dry cleaning business and remediate the site. Afterward, it will begin construction of the building by the end of this year. The goal is to have most of the building’s frame up before winter and complete construction by the end of 2020. The project will include a connector from the bank’s main office on Main Street to the new building.

The project still needs approval by the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, which is meeting tonight to discuss the project. The state Department of Banking also needs to approve the bank’s expenditure on the new building. The final price for the project has not yet been approved by the bank’s board of directors, Janco said.

The bank has been working with Phase Zero Design of Simsbury, the same architectural firm that worked on the bank’s lobby renovation last year. Burlington Construction is the contractor.

A big part of what prevented previous developments at the site was brownfields remediation. The property went unsold at tax auctions until 2013, when two developers from Collinsville purchased the property for $27,210. The purchase allowed the first glimpse of not only what was in the property, but also underneath. A year ago, the bank purchased the site for $37,210.

City Planner Martin Connor said the city, bank and state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection worked together on the project. The city helped the property owner secure state grants to study the contaminates there and learn what the cleanup will entail.

“Everybody worked together,” Connor said. “(It is) a beautiful building that sets a tone for downtown redevelopment.”

Though the exact cost of the cleanup is not yet known, Janco expects it will exceed $100,000.

The bank already has started the abatement process, removing lead and asbestos from inside the building and on the roof. The remediation will be done as the site’s new foundation is prepared.