Chat Transcript: Realtor Lori Hopkins

What events or series of events (that occurred in New London, not outside factors) would you characterize as the turning points or milestones that have led to the decline of the downtown?
New London

The highway cutting through the heart of the City, followed by the demolition of historic structures and homes, followed by dumb, dumb, dumb development as in a police department on a sliver of land with no parking (but with great views of the water). Selling out to high rise low income housing and projects that have facilitated the demise of homeownership and vested residents turning New London into a City that is overwhelmingly comprised of transient renters living in non owner occupied multi-families with little to no zoning enforcement. This continues to this day as the Fort Trumbull Development is 100% non owner residential rental units.  Bad politics as usual.

- 9/2/2008 2:24:25 PM
Posted - 9/2/2008 1:37:40 PM
Just a comment as a follow up to your answer. Sounds like the City could use a full time web master to get this stuff online. Its a cheap investment to make.
New London



I think it will take more than a web master to get the information on-line, searchable and fellable.  If you go to the City of Groton, they have the best site around for getting information from maps and deeds to applications, minutes and calendars.  The Department of Planning and Development, the tax assessors  and the City Clerk, as well as other City Departments have massive amounts of information that needs to be properly handled on-line.

- 9/2/2008 2:15:00 PM
Posted - 9/2/2008 1:30:26 PM
What would you like to say that no one has asked you?
New London

Spend time downtown and make a list of the good, the bad and the ugly and email your City Councilors.  Ask them to address just one of the issues, the one you believe is most important, and see what happens.  If you do not get a response, don't vote for that person in the next election.  If you do get a response and there is no follow-through, don't vote for that person in the next election.  If for some reason, your issue is addressed, whether it be illuminating the US flag in front of City Hall at night or having the streets swept on a regular basis (both of which are not being done), then tell ten friends to vote for the councilor that got the job done in the next election.
- 9/2/2008 2:08:46 PM
Posted - 9/2/2008 1:27:39 PM
Do you have any idea on what type of business would be able to make it downtown and be something those who live in the city need?
New London
The idea of the International Shops works wonderfully with existing businesses downtown and would help ensure the success of all new businesses.  The concept capitalizes on the multi-cultural flavor of our City and the large variety of ethnic backgrounds that make up our region.  Having at least twenty-five shops would be ideal, we already have O Brazil, Ya Ta Hey Gallery and an Irish Pub among others that can easily adopt the International Shops theme. It is not necessary and more preferable that not every business be an International Shop.  Those businesses will benefit tremendously.  However, the International Shops would be supported by a co-operative marketing efforts and a cooperative internet site that would supplement sales and market our City worldwide. It would turn downtown into a destination shopping district.  What kind of businesses would make it? A critical mass of shops helps ensure success.  More shops, more shoppers.  A quality Italian Bakery would be awesome.
- 9/2/2008 2:01:02 PM
Posted - 9/2/2008 1:17:39 PM
Can NL do better marketing to the cruise industry?

I think that the Port of New London is so exciting and that we have cruise ships visiting will help.  I cannot comment on what has been done thus far or what is planned.  I can say that the International Shops concept for downtown would help attract cruise passengers and help promote our City.
- 9/2/2008 1:37:24 PM
Posted - 9/2/2008 12:51:39 PM
Do you think shrinking the size of the Town Council, limiting terms, or staggering terms would help take some of the "politics" out of the process?
New London



This is not a question regarding Downtown and I think I should try to keep the focus on The Day's intended subject.  Sorry, my fault.

- 9/2/2008 1:35:06 PM
Posted - 9/2/2008 12:49:24 PM
How would you have reorganized the Planning & Development department to bring it out of the dark ages?
New London

Good question and the answer is longer than I can answer directly. Most important is easy, online access to information.  There is none. This not only ties up the resources that we do have but is an impediment to planning and development.

- 9/2/2008 1:31:16 PM
Posted - 9/2/2008 12:43:36 PM
What do you think should happen to Ernie's?
New London
I believe that any bar/restaurant that has a track record of illicit activities be fined heavily or forced to close, I also think that the landlords of residential apartments surrounding the Central business district need to be held accountable as well.
- 9/2/2008 1:24:26 PM
Posted - 9/2/2008 12:41:34 PM
Thank you for your observations concerning goverment revisions. Why do you think having a full time legal adviser as opposed to a private law firm that is appointed to be the law director will help?
New London
More accountability and fiscal responsibility, less cronyism and politics.  ie;  The ongoing saga of the Fort Trumbull fiasco.    
- 9/2/2008 1:10:04 PM
Posted - 9/2/2008 12:40:22 PM
So where is the parking located for all these lovely apartments I am reading about downtown? Is it provided by the landlord ?
Lyme, Ct.

One of the benefits of living downtown is not having to own a car.  The train is within walking distance and if the City had trolleys it would be easy to get around.  Parking is available with many of the residences.

- 9/2/2008 12:53:04 PM
Posted - 9/2/2008 12:33:28 PM
How do you think the reorganization in the Planning & Development Office will affect the revitalization of the downtown?
New London

I think the reorganization of the Department of Planning and Development was ill conceived at best, showed a lack of understanding of business, marketing, communication and was a knee jerk reaction to cut spending and garner political control.  There is never a plan that looks to our future and fulfills the needs of the people that work and live in New London.  The City desperately needs good planning and implementation.

- 9/2/2008 12:49:15 PM
Posted - 9/2/2008 12:14:14 PM
As a follow-up to Sara's question, do you think the re-organization of the "Development" or Planning Department (and I know there's been a lot of discussion on both sides of the aisle on this) will help or hurt the efforts to revitalize New London?
New London

I do not agree with how the Department of Planning and Development was reorganized.  That Department needed reorganizing, a new mission and tasks that would bring New London out of the dark ages of communication and information.  As a Realtor, I can tell you it is frustrating doing business in New London.  We are so far behind in every way.


Also, Council has no ability to be the marketing and development arm of the City. That makes no sense.

- 9/2/2008 12:44:56 PM
Posted - 9/2/2008 12:04:45 PM
You say New London needs a comprehensive strategic plan...doesn't it already have a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy?
Sara Hicks
New London

No.  And the type of strategy I am talking about establishes a clear, measurable mission, specifies short term (12 month) and long term (2-3 year goals), has specific steps that will be taken to achieve those goals and a timeline for achieving each step.  If this exists, I haven't seen it.  Also, any plan that is more than two years old is outdated. 



- 9/2/2008 12:37:28 PM
Posted - 9/2/2008 12:00:17 PM
What difference do you think a strong mayor would make for the revitalization of the downtown?
Sara Hicks
New London
First of all, I am not in favor of a 'strong' mayor form of government in New London.  However, should we have a mayor form of government and the person elected be intelligent enough to solicit ideas and present them to the Downtown Property owners and businesses to gain their backing and support, it would be a step in the right direction.
However, a mayor is not needed for this to happen, nor is charter revision.
- 9/2/2008 12:41:23 PM
Posted - 9/2/2008 11:53:15 AM
If one was considering renting an apt. in N.L. downtown, where is the parking located? Does it provide the safety necessary for a woman to come and go without fear regardless of the time of day (or night)?
Lyme, Ct.
Safety is an issue and it is up to the City Council, City Center Tax District and New London Main Street to address this issue so that you can 'feel' safe.  Surveillance cameras and a special downtown security force would be welcome.  We are fortunate to have an excellent police department and emergency responders.  More could be done to evoke a sense of security. Thanks for your question.
- 9/2/2008 12:23:10 PM
Posted - 9/2/2008 11:39:52 AM
Hello, My family owns fudge and candy shops in South Jersey - how well would these types of shops go over along Thames Street in NL?
Mystic, Ct.
Thames Street is in Groton.  Bank Street is in New London.  There is an ice cream shop that sells fudge on Bank Street.  As tourism and retail builds, this type of shop could thrive.
- 9/2/2008 12:20:21 PM
Posted - 9/2/2008 11:25:20 AM
I work downtown and I would like see these kinds of businesses: a place that sells new and used books; a place that sells new and used CDs and vinyl; a place that sells prepared foods and fresh bread, fruits and veggies. Could any of those be successful downtown?
In response to your question, your ideas are good ideas, however, implementation is key. What makes a business thrive is the management, marketing and consumer demand for the product/service.  New London needs to fill as many storefronts as possible and get more apartments on the upper floors to attract shoppers into downtown and service it's residences.  That is the best chance for success.
Thanks for your question.
- 9/2/2008 12:17:31 PM
Posted - 9/2/2008 11:01:48 AM
Are you in favor of a strong mayor form of government? How do you think having or not having this form of government will improve the downtown?
New London
I am not in favor of a 'strong' mayor form of government in New London.  The word 'strong' is used as if the elected mayor will possess all of the education, experience, vision and talent to turn the City around.  There is nothing broken or wrong with the present Council/City Manager form of government we have, except that the party that has controlled the direction of this City for the past 50 years has almost completely destroyed what was once a 'choice' place to live and work.  The strong mayor will only serve to strengthen this control to the detriment of the City. 
New London needs a new breed of elected officials that will appoint talented individuals to fill boards and commissions and change the charter to end corruption.  Getting rid of the Law Director Position and hiring a full-time attorney to work directly for the City on salary as legal counsel is perhaps the most important revision we could make financially and for positive change.
Thanks for your question..
- 9/2/2008 12:40:39 PM
Posted - 9/2/2008 5:43:06 AM
For me developing New London is not location, location, location but PARKING, PARKING, PARKING and the lack of it - is it a consideration in downtown's development?
New London, CT
Parking is always an issue in urban centers and tourism areas that are by nature unfriendly to cars. This will never change. However, there are two things the City can do to help alleviate this problem.
1.  I suggest the City designate 3 strategic parking areas located immediately outside the Central Business District; one near the ferries, one near Howard St and one near Hemspstead St. The trolleys must run regularly throughout the day and evenings.  The trolleys would be visually attractive, be an asset to events and tourism, assist those who do not have transportation and alleviate cars.
2.  New London once had well defined bike paths.  I believe the City should set up bike racks throughout downtown and designate clearly marked, safe bike routes from the South, West and East.
Thanks for your question.
- 9/2/2008 11:56:17 AM
Posted - 9/1/2008 2:23:17 PM
What is your reaction to my observation that the biggest impediment to development downtown is that property is over-priced? If you disagree, please explain the economics to me. Obviously the market-place agrees with me - or people would be buying and renovating the MANY properties for sale. And other people would be renting space.
Michael Casteel
New London, CT
Hi Michael:
I understand that from a Buyer's perspective, the buildings that are for sale may seem overpriced, however, the prices Sellers are asking are set by comparing prior sales of similar properties and by income and expense ratios.  If you compare New London prices to Mystic prices, you will find New London real estate is a steal.
The biggest impediment to development is that New London needs a comprehensive strategic plan (like the International Shops) to attract businesses, along with incentives (from landlords and the City, many of which are already in place), and infrastructure support, ie trolleys, bike racks, tourism info, etc.
Any viable business is able to pay rent and attract customers. Such is the risk of entrepreneurship.  There is a limited number of buildings in the Central Business District, sort of like waterfront property.  Supply and demand sets the price.
Thanks for your question.
- 9/2/2008 11:56:03 AM

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