Groton –– The razing of Mystic's own little green monster drew a step closer Tuesday night when the Historic District Commission approved the design of a four-story building that would be built on a boarded-up site on West Main Street.
The commission's unanimous approval of the so-called New Central Hall, a structure whose exterior would feature a wood clapboard composite, was greeted by applause from those who waited more than a half-hour for the panel to finalize its decision.
One of the supporters of the development company, Historic Mystic LLC, brought plastic cups and what appeared to be wine for a celebratory toast.
The project sparked opposition from some Mystic residents who thought the building would be too big and out of character with the downtown district. But the project's supporters –– merchants and residents who have grown tired of the eight-foot-high fence covering the opening left when the Central Hall Block burned down in March 2000 –– wanted something to be built there.
The Historic Mystic LLC, the development company that bought the downtown Mystic property in 2004, still needs to get approvals from the town's Planning Commission and Zoning Commission, as well as the state, before it can proceed with construction.
“This is only stage one,” Bill Turner, president of the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce, said of the commission's decision. “We still have a way to go, but I think this is one of the major hurdles to accomplish.”
Turner, who has spoken in favor of the project, said small businesses in the historic downtown district have suffered from the “major gap” in its streetscape. Turner thought Historic Mystic's proposal was much stronger than two previous redevelopment proposals that the town and state approved in the last five years.
“I think this is a solid group with a solid developer. I think they have strong financial backing,” Turner said, referring to the investment group that includes Brian Navarro, who is involved in other properties in downtown Mystic.
Developers in December had proposed building a four-story brick building that would stand 45 feet high, 65 feet deep and 130 feet wide. It was to feature six retails shops on the first level and possibly as many as 16 residential condominium units on the top three floors with inset balconies.
Commission members expressed concerns about the project's height, depth and brick façade. In addressing those concerns, the developers presented a four-story structure Jan. 3 that featured the wood clapboard composite.
The developers presented renderings of the revised proposal Tuesday, which showed the adjustments the commission requested regarding porches and a public walkway in the back of the building.
After an extensive review, commissioners said they were satisfied.