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New London - Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio will issue a formal invitation on Wednesday for developers to bid on the landmark Lighthouse Inn.
Interested parties will have until 2 p.m. May 28 to prepare and submit final bids to buy the 4.2-acre Guthrie Place property, which failed to garner any bids during a property-tax sale last June that asked for a minimum of $577,721 - enough to recoup unpaid taxes and fees. After the city took ownership of the inn, bidders passed again on a separate auction last fall.
Now, after investing $67,800 in cleaning up and repairing the inn, the city will begin the process of selling it "so it doesn't sit forever," Finizio said.
"Too many uncertainties" prevented the property's sale last year, he said, including outstanding bills, unpaid dues, and taxes the previous owner had defaulted on.
"People didn't know what they were buying," he said.
No legal questions remain, Finizio said, and thanks to the city's repairs, the inn is in "good condition" and won't fall into further disrepair.
"I think we caught it just in time," he said.
Aside from a minimum bid requirement of $500,000, Finizio said there are purposefully few restrictions on the property's sale. These include that the mansion - the main inn building comprising guest rooms, a restaurant and meeting rooms - be rehabilitated along historic building guidelines from the secretary of the Interior and opened to the public, and that these repairs be completed within two years.
These requirements, Finizio said, are "just enough restriction" to attract a quality developer.
The remaining plans for the inn's commercial future would be up to the developer. There could also be a tax abatement plan subject to council approval.
From there, how quickly renovations begin will depend on the City Council. Finizio said the city could transfer title to a developer within a month or two of the bid closing date.
The 1902 inn, which closed to the public in 2008, was once a cherished dining spot and drinking establishment and, most recently, a resort. Its three buildings - the mansion, the beauty salon and the carriage house - make up about 32,922 square feet of living space and 51 guest rooms.
Last fall, Finizio said that based on estimates from some developers, a rehabilitation could cost up to $2.5 million.
Finizio had planned to go over the bid invitation with city councilors at their meeting Monday night, but that meeting was canceled because of snow. Finizio emailed them the details instead, and while he did not need council permission to seek bids, it would be up to the council to accept a bid.
But he remains adamant that it is the city's responsibility to preserve the Lighthouse Inn, particularly after a history of tearing down some "amazing architecture," he said.
"There's hardly a New Londoner who doesn't have some real emotional connection to this place," he said.