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Major projects planned by Mystic Seaport, Mystic Aquarium

By Joe Wojtas

Publication: The Day

Published May 16. 2012 4:00AM

Mystic - Both Mystic Seaport and Mystic Aquarium are seeking zoning approvals for two major building projects, while Seaport Marine at the foot of Washington Street wants to construct a store and restaurant with outdoor seating overlooking the Mystic River.

The Stonington Planning and Zoning Commission will schedule public hearings on all three applications, to take place over the next two months.

The Seaport is seeking to revise its Marine Heritage District master plan to allow construction of a 20,000-square-foot exhibit building on the north end of the museum grounds overlooking Anchor Square, where the annual Christmas carol sing is held.

The application states that the Seaport needs more exhibit space because it is currently limited in its ability to display items from its vast collection and traveling exhibits.

To make room for the building, the museum plans to demolish the Packard Cabin and North Boat Shed as well as a portion of the G.W. Blunt White Library, which has extensive moisture damage from basement flooding. A portion of the library building would become part of a new visitor entry and ticketing pavilion at the north entrance.

Meanwhile, the aquarium is seeking a special-use permit so it can proceed with its long-discussed plan to build a research building next to the Aquatic Animal Study Center. The two-story research center would replace the trailers that currently house aquarium researchers.

The $1.2 million project calls for erecting a 7,060-square-foot pre-engineered metal building. The commission has been wary of such structures ever since Mystic Cycle Center put one up on Route 1 in 2005 and some town officials and residents criticized its appearance.

The building, which would be located in the gravel parking lot on the easternmost section of the 18-acre aquarium campus, would result in the loss of 33 parking spots. The aquarium's application states it would still have more parking than what is required by zoning regulations.

In downtown Mystic, Noank Shipyard, which owns Seaport Marine, is seeking a special-use permit to construct a $1.2 million, two-story building that would have a restaurant, a retail store and other uses such as bathrooms, showers and laundry facilities for marina patrons with a security access code.

The restaurant would have both indoor and outdoor seating but no amplified live entertainment. The Stonington Architectural Design Review Board has endorsed the building's design.

The application states the project, which calls for 52 parking spots, meets all zoning requirements.

The restaurant would serve lunch and dinner and add breakfast on the weekends.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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