Bert Sacco Interview

Dublin Core


38 mins


Bert Sacco describes downtown Danbury's redevelopment after the 1955 flood as part of Federal urban renewal projects of the 1960-70's. Sacco describes the issues encountered in redevelopment and the collection of survey data for City Planning Commission and to Danbury Redevelopment Agency.



Oral History Item Type Metadata


Janick, Herbert F.


Sacco, Bert

Time Summary

Bert Sacco employed by planning and zoning firm involved with Danbury Redevelopment post 1955 Flood; comprehensive planning ‘old city’ and ‘old town’ consolidation; firm continued flood control activities after 55’; concentrated MainStreet to White Street (northwest intersection) down towards Triangle St.(southeast Danbury); correcting roadway issues: too narrow and/or water pipelines, etc.; Organized projects around “first-need correction” in downtown Main St.; Funding availability crucial; H.U.D. granted credits for school land acquisitions- share from Federal Urban Renewal; Danbury High School largest land acquisition City owned and was qualified; Grant extended past D.H.S.; $20 million or so for other projects throughout the City; Canale and Lombardi were astute at knowing how to apply, extend the Federal funding, and get the maximum out of the boundaries to make projects happen; In the first corrective measure taken downtown, firm knew that the U.S. Army of Corp Engineers (USACE) would be involved, but illegible to provide Federal flood control funding for projects; City still responsible for all land acquisitions and utilities; Firm informed USACE’s engineers of Urban Renewal funds from D.H.S.; Asked for change in retaining walls for flood control and remove some bends, which they did; Utility relocation through Urban Renewal credit funds too; Disposition Clauses; Danbury Railroad bankruptcy; Relocation of railroad tracks and main loop; Wanted bridge to carry water from the Still River underneath the loop and wanted to be 3x bigger than originally planned; Strict Labor Laws; AMTRAK; Did not want any overlap of payments or workers out on the field between Danbury Railroad, USACE, and Danbury; Bert Sacco, Joseph E. Canale, and Jerry Lombardi attended meeting in New Haven where Danbury was minority; 21 people at meeting; All had their own interests for railroad project that they had to watch over; Firm/Commission had coordinated each piece carefully; Federal role in projects; Local office of H.U.D. funding powers and audit powers; All projects had to fall within H.U.D. national guidelines; Guidelines from a constructive standpoint were not difficult to follow; Coordination of administrative offices and agencies that one does not have any control over- proved to be an issue; USACE of engineers- were cooperative; Bill Burke; He hired the firm 1955 and then asked them back again Urban Renewal; 1965 had 20 meetings (Charlie Barlow, Matt Hamilton, Bill Burke, Bert Sacco, and others); Focused on Danbury as the ‘residential bedroom’ like Stamford or as an ‘economic center’.

10:01- 20:00
After 6 months of debate in meetings that year; Decision made Danbury needs to revert back to ‘traditional Danbury’ an industrial center; City Planning- Industrial Zoning; West side of town along 84 as ‘industrial’; East side industries implemented too - garbage dump mainly; Hefty performance standards initiated on westside- not so much for the eastside; Commission's idea was to protect industries from one another; Eastern end less of a worry- cohabitation of asphalt plant, garbage dump, stone terminal; All of which downsized downtown; Multi-family housing; Identified neighborhoods/areas were slipping and run-down; Large houses on northwest side; Large population leaving Deer Hill Ave. to westside of town or more rural sections; Incentive for investors to buy these larger houses and turn into multi-level apartments; Critical decision from commission at the time; Lots of things that have happened in the past 20 years was due to the decision made by that commission; If commision had decided to make it only 1 acre zoning as the smallest lot-Danbury would become a bedroom; Multi-family housing already happening in Danbury’s southeast section, so building incentive seen as continuation; Attitude of commission was to push industrial; Firm’s responsibility to provide data and projections to City, directed re-evaluation for taxes which helped waste program and sewer system; Federal only permitted Urban Renewal funding to start if comprehensive land survey and assessment of the City done; Beaver Street identified early as ‘worst area’ for housing interiors and crime; Firm attended State public hearings too; Shortage of low income and senior housing; Beaver Street deemed a mostly a flood zone, area that could not be used for housing- turned into park (Sauer Memorial Park); Implemented six-story housing residential buildings at southern end of Beaver Street near Rose St.; Lake Kenosia; State’s water program; If one looks at the history of the details in Danbury redevelopment projects, each one had a twofold reason for the project's start; Very rarely an isolated project; Union Carbide; Water pipelines in order to buy land for company; Large expense for them; City was only responsible to build access road off interstate 84 (exit one); But, Mayor Dan Decibella made commitment to the Union Carbide to do both; Danbury high unemployment rate which matched State’s initiative for accelerated Public Works program; Comission got bill together, approved by State, and water supply lines and road built through this program; Made good on promise to corporation; Created more jobs too; Part of firm’s task was to know where the money was, in order for City not to pay full amount or through grant programs; Yet, City’s responsibility to flood prone posts/roads like Patriot Dr.; Bill Goodman; Janick: Did you think this kind of redevelopment was the right way to go from your standpoint? What did you think of projects as an expert in field, regardless of what the commission finally decided to do? Sacco: Being someone from an Old New England town; Bothered that the City was starting to loose its identity as an industrial center; Tried to stay as objective as possible; Commission's decision was a sound one, though;

Differed in the 50’s compared to 60’s because town and city were not consolidated yet in the 50’s; Old Town (mostly residential) had no utilities compared to downtown old City; Larry Moore (principal at the firm during this time) dealt with different interests and different entities (City and Town) representatives too; Zones were different, intent was different from each; Used downtown utilities extended to other Old Town areas; Unification of these were crucial to funds for redevelopment projects; Sacco believes areas that could have been pushed more- Transportation; Traffic planning; Implementation tough; Somewhat easy to get funding for areas with deteriorated housing or flooding, water and sewers and so forth because each had funded programs; transportation infrastructure and City money; Wildman Street and White Street intersection -1963 proposal to straighten out road; Tough for a mayor to go ask City Planning for $300,000 to simply buy land to straighten road; People on council questioned local taxes; Role of Federal money crucial in changing the face of the city; Transportation issues still exist; Sacco identifies interstate system as biggest issue (Route 7 to Interstate 84); Traffic thru Danbury; State did not keep up with development of roadways, as it occurred; Used old Route 6’s traffic flow as benchmark for Interstate 84’s traffic projection (like 20,000 cars a day); Which then created 4 million sq. ft. of residential and office buildings around it, which is great, but this alone caused another 20,000 cars a day using the interstate; Pushed offices and small businesses in corridor, now that corridor is crowded; A number of routes and roads were suggested by Sacco’s firm for better traffic flow; Airport juncture back up to South Street continuing to parts of Patriot Drive, section of Balmforth Ave.; Land acquisitions for City; Parking along Main Street - Sacco’s firm proposed widening Main Street to 5 lanes; Pretty major surgery needed at the intersection of Main Street and North Street for traffic; All these proposed changes looked good on paper, but meant someone had to make a cash commitment; Janick: Is this a pattern for a lot of communities, Danbury any different?
Sacco: Yes, a pattern across the board, but was different due to the fact that Danbury grew more intensely in short period of time; Traffic grew more intensely than any other city in CT; If one looks at population growth rate versus any other city of the same size in the State (Bridgeport, New Haven, Hartford, Stamford too), Danbury stands on its own in comparison; Sacco recalls Danbury being 9th in the State as far as size, but 4th in growth rate; Serious impact on Interstate 84 and Route 7; Growth pattern- crowding along major highways; Residential roadways are now dealing with high density of traffic; Highway corridors are crowded throughout the State;

Tough keeping the character of Danbury as it was; Combination of preservation for older buildings while maintaining new growth; Keeping open space and quality of life so that it does not change dramatically; Large amount of open space areas identified by firm; Many were eventually purchased through Federal funding; Golf course on west side was one of the areas identified as one (Richter Park); Yet, Richter land was originally donated to the city by Irene Richter (as memorial for deceased husband); Now a Danbury attraction; Subdivision regulations; Zoning was set up for areas of buffering around this land to protect; More historic preservation since the late 70’s along with new environmental laws for wetlands; Advocated that conservation and development can coexist, and really feed off of one another; Houses are not as valuable if trees and bodies of water are not running near property; Neighboring developer benefits too; Sacco explains firm's current land analysis project in Massachusetts with housing developer near/on wetland; Real-estate developer can make more money by leaving open space with less units, but many do not understand this concept, just want as many as possible; Even though more money spent in process of removing the stone and trees to then put back in; Conservation is difficult for developers to comply with, especially in Fairfield County has such high amount paid per unit; Land analysis at lot by lot basis with conservation; Danbury lost financial eligibility because of its prosperity, no longer qualified for Federal programs; Sacco identifies key individuals in Danbury’s growth and history: Chairman of the Planning Commission, Jerry Lombardi, Charlie Pusecelli, Matt Hamilton, former Danbury mayors: Gino Arconti, Dan Decibella, and then James Dyer (Sacco has not worked much with); Large emphasis on Bill Goodman’s decisions (former City Planning Commissioner) and Joseph E. Canale’s role in redevelopment.


Janick, Herbert F. and Bert Sacco. “Bert Sacco Interview.” Danbury Preservation Trust Records, MS 039. WCSU Archives, 9 July 2019. Accessed on the Web: 18 Nov. 2019.



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