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Ledyard — The town will make another bid for state money in a long-running effort to improve the Route 12 streetscape in Gales Ferry.
The Town Council pushed forward a $500,000 grant application Wednesday night, voting to allow Mayor John Rodolico to sign and send the application. This isn't the first time officials have had their eye on the Main Street Investment Fund; a full-scale $1.5 million plan was submitted to the state in the fall of 2012 with the hope that one phase could be fully funded.
Before that, the town applied in 2011 for $325,000 in Small Town Economic Assistance Program in a separate effort to rehabilitate the parking lot of Riverside Mall, where Ocean State Job Lot is located.
The state turned both of these bids down.
Since then, the town has seen some improvement to the Riverside Mall complex, a longtime eyesore for the Gales Ferry community. After striking a tax abatement deal with the town, the owners of the complex agreed to phase in certain upgrades, including eliminating unsightly asphalt, installing a new façade and improving parking lot lighting.
Phase two of this project has been completed.
And in the fall of 2012, a new CVS pharmacy opened its doors across the street, directly adjacent to the former Gales Ferry School, which the town is attempting to use as a business incubator.
Still, this grant application will seek to achieve the objectives of a town report that is now more than a decade old, which highlighted multiple concerns with the Route 12 "corridor."
Though Gales Ferry's residential district sits less than 1,000 feet from the would-be commercial center, a pedestrian-hostile layout has ruled out any foot traffic. And the strip-mall, car-centric layout of the stretch has discouraged budding businesses, even pushed several out.
The grant application asks for the full $500,000 to cover the first phase of the original larger-scale plan. The hope is to draw mom-and-pop businesses to Route 12's extensive vacant building stock. It would tackle unnecessary pavement, replacing it with sidewalks, community plazas, lighting, lawn and landscaping.
If the grant application is approved, construction could begin in the spring of 2015 and wrap up that summer.