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Paul Mitchell School to move to heart of Danbury CityCenter

DANBURY -- Officials confirmed Wednesday Paul Mitchell The School on South Street is moving to a larger location in the heart of CityCenter.
Officials and key stakeholders hailed the move as a major step forward in efforts to revitalize the downtown and bring more businesses and people into the CityCenter.
Luke Jacobellis, president of John Paul Mitchell Systems, said the company has been in talks with city officials for months about moving to a building on National Place located near the City Green.
The company purchased the three-story brick structure, formerly occupied by Webster Bank, about three years ago for $3.3 million.
"The current location is just too small and we can't fit any more students," Jacobellis said Wednesday from his office in California. "We need a bigger facility."
He said the cosmetology school has about 80 students at the South Street location and hope to more than double that once they move into the building on National Place.
The school will likely have to double its instructors -- currently there are about a dozen -- as enrollment increases, Jacobellis said.
He added that the company considered moving to other communities closer to New York City, but decided to stay after meeting with local officials this spring.
"They told us about all the good things happening in Danbury and we made the decision to stay here," he said. "I was very impressed that the mayor personally met with us to make the case why we had to stay in Danbury."
Jacobellis said he's visited the city several times in recent years and "it feels better every time I'm in the downtown."
He said the school is planning to invest between $800,000 and $1 million to renovate the building.
The school, according to the city's planning director, Dennis Elpern, is applying for a tax deferment for a portion of the project.
Elpern said while the school portion is not eligible for a deferment, officials with Paul Mitchell are considering leasing out the third floor of the building for office space, which is eligible under the city's deferment incentive program.
Only the additional taxes related to the costs of renovating the third floor, he said, would be eligible.
Tom Devine, the owner of Two Steps Downtown Grille, located near the site of the proposed school, said incentives such as the tax deferment program are "crucial to helping bring businesses to the downtown.
"The school is expecting to spend a lot of money on the building and that's substantial," said Devine, who also serves as chairman of CityCenter. "This will help to create a lot more excitement downtown."
He said Paul Mitchell The School's move adds to the list of recent accomplishments officials can cite to other potential investors about CityCenter, including the redevelopment of the former police station on southern Main Street and the recently revamped retail center on Crosby Street, where Bruegger's Bagels now does business.
Dan Bertram, a principal with the BRT Corp., which developed the Crosby Street property as well as the nearby Brookview Commons apartment building, said the new school "bridges nicely with some of the improvements we've made.
"Every piece of property that can be renewed and brought back online makes the downtown more cohesive and therefore more compelling to become a part of," he said.
City Council minority leader Tom Saadi, who has been opposed to some tax deferments in the past -- specifically those related to the Brookview Commons -- said the new school could bring more jobs and people into the downtown.
"Of course I'd like to review the application just to make sure the tax deferment is being used properly," he said. "But this could be a good thing for the school and for the city."
Saadi said that while he and Bertram have had issues about tax deferments in the past, "I believe the city has moved beyond that. Dan has done some very good things for the economic development of the downtown with the Crosby Street project. It's that type of development that increases jobs and our tax base that I support."
Mayor Mark Boughton said Paul Mitchell The School's move will provide a nice anchor for the area surrounding the green.
"We've been meeting with the school for a long time," Boughton said, "and I believe we've put a plan together that will help them make this happen."