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Location, location, location

Published July 09. 2014 4:00AM

No doubt people in New London and Waterford are peering covetously a few miles east while they ponder the futures of long-stalled restoration projects in their respective municipalities.

The Whaling City's persistent struggles to find a developer willing to buy and renovate the historic Lighthouse Inn hit another roadblock Monday when the City Council rightfully rejected New Haven businessman Anthony D. Acri III's paltry $100,000 bid for the historic Lighthouse Inn on Guthrie Place. New London, which had set a $500,000 minimum for the property, now must decide its next move.

Next door in Waterford, the ongoing saga involving Farmington developer Mark Steiner's ever-changing efforts to convert the former Seaside Regional Center for the developmentally disabled to condos and a luxury inn took a potentially game-changing turn last week when he announced that if approved the project would be run by celebrated hotelier Ocean House Management LLC.

Travel and Leisure Magazine's just-released 2014 rankings rates the company's signature property, the Ocean House in Watch Hill, the fifth-best hotel in the world and the number one resort in the continental United States.

Though Ocean House Management stopped short of promising to help finance the Seaside project - a continuing sticking point for Mr. Steiner - just having the company mentioned in the same breath adds potential credibility to his proposal. Ocean House Management also operates the highly regarded Weekapaug Inn.

But before Waterford and the state, which owns the abandoned sanitarium, get too far ahead of themselves they must remind themselves that Seaside's waterfront location, though exceptional, will never be Watch Hill, where Taylor Swift paid $17 million for a mansion three doors down from the Ocean House. And nobody will spend $146 million to restore the Seaside property, as financier Charles Royce did when rebuilding the Ocean House four years ago.

This is especially true of Lighthouse Inn, a once glorious but now vacant property on the National Register of Historic Places. Though only a few blocks from Long Island Sound near the mouth of the Thames River, there are no water views.

The New London City Council has scheduled a public hearing July 28 to discuss Lighthouse Inn.

Waterford will continue its discussion of the Seaside project July 16.

Incidentally, if you plan to stay at the Ocean House, prepare to dig deeply. The penthouse suite rents for $10,000 per night, plus tax -and there's a three-night minimum.

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