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The latest developments in the effort to build a National Coast Guard Museum on the New London waterfront are both a sign of progress and a sobering reminder of the challenges that must be met to make this vital project a reality.
At 11 this morning Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr. and James Coleman, chairman of the National Coast Guard Museum Association, will gather at Union Station to sign a Memorandum of Agreement that spells out the shared goals and respective responsibilities of the state, city, Coast Guard and museum association.
It is a step more symbolic than substantive - the document notes, "Nothing in this MOA … obligates the signatory parties to expend appropriations or to enter into any contract … or incur other financial obligations." Yet it is an important milestone, an indication that the process, which began with the announcement of the proposed museum location last April, continues. It clarifies the expectations, if not the obligations, of all involved.
The city moves forward with plans to sell 10,000 square feet of waterfront property, behind Union Station, to the Coast Guard Academy for $1. Plans call for Cross Sound Ferry to purchase another 6,100 square feet, for $123,000, to develop a ferry terminal.
The U.S. Coast Guard clarifies it cannot accept the parcel until the conclusion of a site analysis, while acknowledging it meets many of the criteria.
The city and state agree to expedite required permits, zone changes and other necessary approvals, with the state taking the lead on coordinating the project with Amtrak and other rail services.
According to the MOA, the state will pursue a funding commitment of $20 million to support the project, as pledged by Gov. Malloy, the bulk expected to cover the cost of a pedestrian bridge carrying visitors over the tracks to the museum and ferry terminal. The MOA calls the bridge "an integral element," with the city retaining ownership and maintenance responsibility.
The museum association faces the biggest challenge, raising the bulk of the $80 million necessary to make the project a reality.
But with today's event confidence continues to build that it will all get done and that this 54,300-square-foot project, a potential game changer for downtown development, will become a reality.