Sharp elbows in negotiations for Bank Street development
I met New London landlord Peter Kreckovic a few weeks ago in front of his two 19th century buildings on Bank Street, at the end of Montauk Avenue.
One of them, a little brick and clapboard house with a curved side, has long been one of my favorite city buildings. It is very charming.
It turns out it was one of two once owned by a black whaling sailor, Antoine DeSant, who came to New London from Cape Verde as a crew member on a ship, started a grocery and barber business on Bank Street and became a U.S. citizen in 1872.
Kreckovic had summoned me that hot July afternoon to share some worries he has about what he said he was told about evolving plans for a big box store development at Bank and Jefferson avenues.
Kreckovic explained how he has become a victim of sorts already, losing permission for his tenants to park behind his buildings just five days after he refused to sell out to the developers.
The permission to use a driveway controlled by a neighboring property, an entrance off Bank he has used for the 14 years he has owned the buildings, was revoked by a neighbor negotiating to sell to the developers.
Kreckovic is refusing to sell the buildings, despite what he called a substantial offer, because he believes they make up an important architectural feature of the city’s whaling history, along with a third one nearby that might also be part of the development, at the city’s gateway to downtown.
“No tourists are going to come to New London to see big box stores. They have that at home,” he told me.
I agree with him. The location also seems abysmal for a suburban-style development, given that it is at one of the busiest and most congested intersections in the city.
It would be like a giant UFO, lit up at night, landed alongside the historic neighborhood behind Bank Street, starting with the old houses on Belden Street.
One person who disagrees with Kreckovic and me is none other than a city councilor who stands to profit personally.
John Satti, who inherited a storefront building on that block of Bank, where his great grandfather once sold candy, has agreed to sell the now-vacant lot to the developers. He also is going to sell a second one, behind it, on Belden Street.
Satti told me he thinks it is the inevitable creep of development up Bank Street from Howard Street that will improve the city’s tax base.
The Realtor for the developing project is Timothy Londregan of Londregan Real Estate Group and Paramount Partners.
He told me plans for the development are still evolving and he couldn’t say who the tenants might be, how large it might be or even whether it seems likely to happen.
He wouldn’t answer directly when I asked what he knew about Kreckovic’s losing his parking permission five days after turning down Londregan’s purchase offer.
The neighbor, affiliated with a New Haven-area roofing company, who apparently also has agreed to sell, did not return phone messages.
Londregan said several times that Kreckovic’s buildings do not have legal parking because of the lack of access. That’s true. But until negotiations began for this project, he had the use of the parking.
Kreckovic said he long ago made a deal with the roofing company next door that they could use a grassy area behind his buildings for equipment in return for his tenants’ use of some of the roofer’s parking spaces.
Once that deal was withdrawn after he refused to sell, Kreckovic was told he also could not use the same driveway for his tenants to use a neighboring church parking lot, with the church’s permission.
Apparently church members still are being allowed to use the driveway.
Londregan told me the original plan was to tear down Kreckovic’s buildings but he added they would now consider incorporating them into the development.
Kreckovic said he was never told that. He said he was told they wanted to take them down to improve sight lines to the big box store. They did suggest moving them to the Belden Street side of the combined new property, he said.
The project has a lot of substantial roadblocks ahead, beyond Kreckovic’s preservation-minded good citizenship. Not the least of those hurdles is getting the state to sign off on changes to the already overburdened intersection of these two state roads.
There are lots of empty lots waiting for development in New London.
I hope Londregan and his partners can find one, even if, unfortunately, that might cost Councilor Satti a sale.
This is the opinion of David Collins.
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