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Building for major retailer proposed in Mystic

By Joe Wojtas

Publication: theday.com

Published March 12. 2013 3:00PM   Updated March 12. 2013 11:46PM

Mystic — A developer is seeking to construct a building that would house a major retailer on 11 acres of land owned by Mystic Aquarium across Coogan Boulevard from its main campus.

Last week, Stonington First Selectman Ed Haberek posted on his Facebook page that he had held a meeting with the developer of a new retailer coming to town.

Haberek declined to identify the name of the store Tuesday but said it is a well-known retailer that would fit well with the area.

“It’s a great opportunity and would be quite an addition to Mystic,” he said.

Aquarium spokeswoman Erin Merz confirmed Tuesday that the aquarium has signed a purchase-and-sale agreement for an 11-acre parcel on Maritime Drive. She said the terms and conditions of the agreement, including the name of the purchaser, are subject to a confidentiality agreement and “we are not at liberty to disclose who the interested party is.”

The 11-acre lot along Coogan Boulevard and the east side of Maritime Drive contains an unpaved parking lot that the aquarium uses for overflow parking on busy days.

The developer is expected to meet with town planning officials next week to discuss the project.

Because the land is zoned for manufacturing use, the developer would need a zone change to commercial use to open a retail operation. Much of the land in the heavily developed Coogan Boulevard area is already zoned for tourist commercial use.

Merz said that most of the land had been cleared of brush at one time by the previous owner in anticipation of development.

The lot is among three parcels totaling 26 acres that the aquarium put on the market for $2.9 million in 2001.

Before the recession, the aquarium had considered using the 26 acres for additional development, but those plans stalled.

Merz said the Maritime Drive parcels were donated to Sea Research Foundation, the aquarium’s parent organization, as a land bank asset.

She said the aquarium is now “seeking to liquidate those assets to build up our endowment and ultimately our cash liquidity. At this time, our board deemed it prudent to increase liquid assets. There are no plans to use the proceeds from the sale for anything other than our endowment.”

j.wojtas@theday.com

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