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Trader Joe's is coming! (just kidding)

By David Collins

Publication: The Day

Published April 19. 2013 4:00AM

There are suddenly so many large development parcels reported to be in play around here, you might think the Eighties were back.

An announcement about a big new project in Mystic, across from Mystic Aquarium, seems imminent. There are reports of tire kickers in New London, looking at the long vacant redevelopment land at Shaw's Cove, where there might as well be actual tires of abandoned cars to kick.

There is a report of a developer interested in Norwich Hospital.

And just this week, state Rep. Timothy Bowles announced he is assembling a task force to work on his dream of creating a clean energy center at the old hospital site.

Of course it's hard not to think of big development projects of old, the ones that never happened, whenever new ones surface.

Bowles' idea of a clean energy technology center at the hospital sounds great, and I wish him well.

But it's hard not to wonder if the failed project jinx doesn't still linger from the Utopia days, when everyone thought the hospital property was going to become Disney North, a major movie studio and theme park called Utopia Studios.

North Stonington has been no stranger to failed development ideas over the years, everything from another movie studio theme park and race car tracks to an indoor water park with beaches and simulated waves.

Imagine what a great town it could have become if it all had happened.

New Londoners have toyed with their own share of theme park proposals over the years, including the much ballyhooed Ocean Quest, at the site of what is now the Electric Boat towers, which everyone was sure was going to happen, until it didn't.

Nothing seems to get people more excited, though, than a suggestion that a Whole Foods or Trader Joe's supermarket might be coming to the region. We all seem to dream with our stomachs.

Just last week I heard someone pretty deeply involved with New London redevelopment float the rumor that Trader Joe's might be coming to town. I didn't bite, though, because I have already chased down too many Trader Joe's-is-coming rumors to get sucked in again.

I am convinced, though, that anyone running for governor in Connecticut would be sure to carry this part of the state if he or she promised a Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. Honestly, I think eastern Connecticut would finally send Linda McMahon to the Senate if she built a Whole Foods here. (It would cost way less than the $100 million she spent to buy all those state votes the last two times around.)

I think maybe someone should suggest the Whole Foods/Trader Joe's strategy to Gov. Dannel Malloy, who is going to need all the help he can get for the next election.

Really, people tend to yawn when they hear about all the millions Malloy has spent to try to cultivate a larger bioscience industry in the state.

I know people appreciated the $20 million Malloy promised for a Coast Guard museum in New London.

But he needs to unwad some more bond money and pay Whole Foods or Trader Joe's to build a store here to really lock down eastern Connecticut come re-election time.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

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