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Waterford — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy visited Mago Point Tuesday to announce the town will receive a $500,000 state grant that will make the area more accessible and pedestrian-friendly.
“Listen, this has got great potential,” Malloy told a group of town officials and Mago Point business owners from a podium set up in Mago Point Park.
Town officials plan to use the Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant for purposes including increasing parking space on the point and adding more signs to make the point more visible from Rope Ferry Road (Route 156).
“The basic thought is a seaside village,” said town Planning Director Dennis Goderre.
The grant will be used to fund two programs. The first would focus on the park created on the point several years ago. It would include expansion of public and handicapped parking, increased handicapped access to the park and installations of public art, among other additions.
The second program would offer incentives for businesses to upgrade façades and landscaping. The town would use STEAP funds to match businesses’ investments 50 percent, up to an award of $25,000.
Business owners on the point have complained for years that the town needs to invest more in development of the area. Town officials and business owners alike say that the current setup makes it easy to miss the area.
“Now it’s like a flyway, you know. People go over it,” said Rep. Betsy Ritter, D–Waterford, who attended the governor’s announcement.
Route 156, the main road between Waterford and Niantic, ran through the area until 1991, when the old swing bridge over the Niantic River was replaced. The current bridge, which has a 30-foot clearance, bypasses the point, leaving it cut off.
Multiple Mago Point businesses, including restaurants Unk’s and La Casa, have closed since the new bridge was built.
“This is a major movement for Mago Point,” Business Association President Gary D. Smith, who owns a marina on the point, said of the STEAP grant. “This helps moving forward what we’re asking them to do for us.”
Jane Wadsworth, a member of the business association and lifelong resident of the point, referred to Mago Point as “Waterford’s untouched gem.”
“We just need to get the people here,” she said.
The grant will not cover some of the developments officials and business owners envision.
First Selectman Daniel Steward said eventually he would like to see further residential development on the property. He commented to the governor that a “Watch Hill environment” might be possible. He later described such an environment as condominiums stacked on top of small businesses.
Malloy commented after announcing the award that developing coastlines has been difficult due to the recent recession and said that changing shorelines due to climate change did not help. Still, he said he was hopeful coastline development in the state would ramp up.
Goderre said that new buildings would have to be built on stilts with parking added below buildings.
Goderre said that the Planning and Zoning Department planned to make changes to the zoning regulations of the point and that the business association had suggested some changes. He said the town may apply for more STEAP funding down the road.
Ledyard is also receiving a $500,000 STEAP grant for town center improvements that include parking, lighting, landscaping and crosswalk expansion, according to a press release from Malloy’s office. “When complete, this project will connect all municipally owned properties in the center of town with a continuous improved streetscape,” the release reads.
North Stonington will receive $245,400 for a 1,500-foot water line extension that will serve 12 residential homes, fairgrounds, the Grange Hall and the Old Fire Station. The extension will also provide a connection to the town’s new EMS Center and a future water tower.