Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary with a portion of the Rose Hill property looming in the background. The property, which O’Leary is interested in having the city purchase, includes several acres overlooking downtown Waterbury, a renovated historic mansion, a school and a gymnasium.

                                              By John Murray

   Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary spent the first 10 months in office focused intensely on trying to help facilitate the merger of St. Mary’s Hospital and Waterbury Hospital into a new privately funded $500 million new state-of-the-art hospital built in downtown Waterbury. O’Leary, his economic development team, and Governor Dan Malloy, came within a whisker of pulling off the project, which ultimately collapsed over a clash about women’s reproductive rights.

   Keenly disappointed at losing what was described as a once in a generation economic development opportunity, O’Leary has turned towards other projects in the past year and half. He is on the cusp of announcing several funded projects in downtown Waterbury, and although the mayor is tight-lipped about the details, it is rumored to involve an expansion of UConn in the heart of the city, and parking.

   Additionally, when the Rose Hill property at 63 Prospect Street came on the market – the former home of the Chase Family – Mayor O’Leary immediately expressed interest in the city purchasing, and controlling, the future of this spectacular property overlooking downtown Waterbury. Rose Hill (pictured here) is owned by Stepping Stone, a program for troubled girls, but they lost funding and closed down. While they owned the property there were nearly seven million dollars of improvements at Rose Hill, including the construction of residential housing, a small school and a gymnasium.

The school and gymnasium are new additions to Rose Hill, and immediately caught O’Leary’s eye.

   “The property is awesome,” O’Leary said, “and I hope I can convince the aldermen that we should buy it for $2.7 million, and control the destiny of this great asset.”

Office space, class rooms and dorms are all in pristine shape.

   Rose Hill is directly behind the YMCA and the Mattatuck Museum, and Webster Bank CEO Jim Smith has pledged to invest millions of dollars in the neighborhood.

   “There is a significant investment in this area and I don’t believe it’s in the city’s best interest to have another residential treatment facility in downtown. We are going to try and protect our investments. We want to control what happens at Rose Hill.”

   O’Leary is leading the Board of Aldermen on a tour of Rose Hill this morning in the hopes of convincing them the property is a worthwhile investment. He will need to get a super majority from the board to make the transaction.