New London — The National Coast Guard Museum will be situated across the railroad tracks from Union Station, adjacent to a new high-speed ferry terminal and accessible from the downtown area via a handicapped-accessible crossing.
Calling the riverfront location "the kind of site any architect would dream of," the head of the architectural team for the museum described to members of the National Coast Guard Museum Association, Coast Guard leaders, politicians and museum supporters gathered at the Science & Technology Magnet High School this morning a three-part building with views to the south, exhibition areas to the north and a central atrium.
The National Coast Guard Museum will bring people to New London from around the world and transform the city and the region, according to speakers at this morning's press conference.
"This is a 'wow' day for the state of Connecticut," Sen. Richard Blumenthal told those gathered for the announcement at the Science & Technology Magnet School.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the museum will attract people on "an international basis to New London." The state has committed $20 million toward the project.
Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr., the Coast Guard commandant, said he likes the site because it can be reached easily by car, bus, train or ferry, many tourists pass through Union Station each day and museum visitors can go to the restaurants and shops downtown.
Fort Trumbull was considered as a possible site for the museum, but Papp said the property there would be "a little bit off the beaten path." Union Station, which was also considered, is too small, he added. The plans call for a roughly 50,000-square-foot museum.
"As people are going to northern New England on the train, and as they go by and look out, they'll say, 'Hey, National Coast Guard Museum, it might be neat to come back here and visit that place,'" he said. "There will be thousands of people that will be going by that museum every day."
Papp said the museum will be a "very attractive addition to the waterfront" and he hopes it will help local businesses thrive.
"The city perhaps might someday see a renaissance of sorts," he said.
The Coast Guard's ties to New London date back more than two centuries. One of the 10 cutters George Washington authorized in 1790 to enforce federal tariff and trade laws was built and based in New London, Papp said.
The Cutter Argus most likely moored at a pier off Bank Street, within walking distance of the site of the future museum, he added. The 10 vessels became the Revenue Cutter Service, one of the five services that merged to form the Coast Guard.
"There's our tie back to the beginnings of our service, right here in New London," Papp said.
Papp said he hopes the Coast Guard barque Eagle will move from Fort Trumbull to City Pier, as long as the water is deep enough and the pier is sturdy enough since trucks have to bring supplies to the ship. Visiting Coast Guard ships could also tie up at the pier, he added.
"If you start getting this vibrant waterfront with clubs and restaurants and other things, when you have a visiting ship that's coming in off a patrol, what a great place to pull into," he said.
The National Coast Guard Museum Association still has to raise the rest of the money to build the museum, which is expected to cost $80 million to $100 million depending on some of the design choices.