Construction on former Central Hall block in Mystic to begin soon

Groton — The owners of the former Central Hall Block in downtown Mystic have submitted their building permit application and expect to begin construction on the building frame within the next two to three weeks.

Construction and engineering teams met with town staff on Wednesday to discuss the plans, said Jonathan Reiner, Groton’s director of planning and development services.

The town is reviewing the building permit application and expects to issue the permit by Tuesday at the latest, inspection services manager Kevin Quinn said Friday. The developer also must obtain a state permit related to traffic, as plans call for maintaining two-way traffic on West Main Street, but shifting it temporarily to the south side of the road, he said.

Historic Mystic LLC, which has owned the property at 18-22 West Main St. since 2004, plans to build a four-story structure over the water, with six retail stores on the first floor and 12 two-bedroom condominiums on the second, third and fourth floors. New England Marine Construction installed steel pylons and built the concrete base for the structure, beginning last summer and finishing in the winter.

The developer plans to have the shell of the building complete by September, Quinn said.

“It’s going to be a beautiful building,” Quinn said, adding that all seems in order with the permit. “Everybody’s anxious to see this get going and we don’t want to hold this up. Time is money.” Crews would use a crane to lift steel beams and build the frame of the building’s first floor, which could be completed in about three days’ time, Quinn said. Once the steel frame is complete, crews would waterproof the outside and work on the deck for the structure. The upper floors would be constructed with wood frame, Reiner said.

The former Central Hall building burned in 2000 and since then, residents and tourists have passed by a fence while developers debated various plans to build in its place. The Groton Planning Commission approved final construction management plans for the current project on June 27.

"It's a very complex project and a very financially challenging project, and that has been a major issue with the delay," said Todd Brady, a Mystic developer and former chairman of Downtown Mystic Merchants. "That (combined) with the financial crisis in 2008 and all that that entailed slowed things down. But I guess we're at the point now where we're going to actually see some steel coming off the concrete foundation."

The building will add another element to downtown growth, he said.

"It's been a big hole in our downtown streetscape for so many years and downtown has got maybe one empty space at this time. We've seen a lot of progress and movement — new restaurants, retail establishments — and I think this will just add to that and just create a more seamless visual downtown," Brady said.

"Mystic is doing extremely well these days, but it wasn't that long ago, really, a year and a half ago maybe, that people were really concerned because we had some vacancies and some of them were in high-profile locations," said Paige Bronk, manager of economic and community development. Now the vacancies have been filled and Central Hall is the last major void remaining.

“People have been waiting a long time for some real progress,” he said. “Although there was work being done on the foundation and the coastal work, this phase coming up is what the public's been waiting for, and I know that they’re going to be excited." The project also fills a market need for more multi-family housing by adding residential units, he said.

Workers will access the construction site at Central Hall from Gravel Street and from West Main Street, with most of the access from Gravel Street, according to building plans. Two-way traffic will be maintained throughout the project.

 d.straszheim@theday.com

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