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Officials break ground on Gateway Commons in East Lyme

By Kimberly Drelich

Publication: theday.com

Published June 25. 2014 4:58PM   Updated June 26. 2014 12:09AM

East Lyme — With construction underway and the frames of several buildings taking shape, developers and town representatives officially marked on Wednesday the residential phase of the long-planned Gateway Commons development.

The residential development, named The Sound at Gateway Commons, will feature 280 rental apartments, housed in 10 identical stone buildings, off Interstate 95’s Exit 73. A 6,000-square-foot clubhouse will host fitness and billiard rooms, a media center and an outdoor pool.

The residences are the first step of a planned residential and retail village on a roughly 200-acre site between I-95’s Exits 73 and 74.

The town approved a master plan for Gateway Commons six years ago, but the development stalled during the economic downturn.

Last year, The Simon Konover Co. of West Hartford and KGI Properties of Providence, the developers, again approached the town with a final site plan for the residential phase.

At the groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday morning, Simon Konover President and Chief Operating Officer James Wakim said he looked forward to a “mutually beneficial and long-lasting relationship” with the town and thanked developers and community leaders for their dedication to make the project a reality.

“A master development plan was created circa 2008 and then something called the Great Recession hit and basically the lights went out and everybody went dark — but not Konover, not KGI and not the community of East Lyme,” Wakim said. “We believed in the fundamentals of this property, we believed in the fundamentals of the market and we remained confident that this was a strategic location for future investment.”

First Selectman Paul Formica said town officials have aimed to make the area more appealing for businesses to flourish. He also said the region needs housing both to keep young people in the state once they become educated and to give seniors a place to live and enjoy the town and southeastern Connecticut.

“This is a great project, not only for the wonderful partners we have sitting here, but for the community,” Formica told attendees. “It’s been a long time coming.”

“We have a great project going on in East Lyme,” said KGI President Richard Bornstein. “We’re very proud to be here and happy to be in partnership with the Konovers.”

After the speeches, development and town officials struck the ground with shovels to celebrate the development, specifically the construction of the clubhouse.

The company plans to bring the first two to four residential buildings on line by the end of the year, said Newt Brainard, vice president of Simon Konover. Construction on the overall project, which includes improving East Society Road, will take 16 to 18 months.

The rentals will include 600 square foot studios, one-bedroom apartments that are about 850 square feet and two-bedroom units that will be between 950 and 1,300 square feet. Monthly rents will range from $1,250 to $1,950.

Developers said planning continues for the commercial phase of the development. The master plan allows for up to 425,000 square feet of retail space, including one 140,000-square-foot anchor store — Costco — and up to five smaller “junior anchor” stores.

Formica said he has asked Costco for an economic impact statement. Discussions are also ongoing about improvements to roads. The overall project would require reconfiguring the Exit 74 ramps, he said.

Tony Sheridan, president of the Eastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce, said after the ceremony that the construction project will be a boost to the economy.

“I think it’s very exciting,” he said. “This is the kind of work that will create a ripple effect in our economy.”

The project also involves Rockland Trust, BL Companies, Haynes Construction and architects from Gate 17 Architecture. Brainard said pre-leasing will begin July 15 at an office at 170 Flanders Road.

k.drelich@theday.com

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