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Plan on the Coast Guard museum

There are a lot of development projects on the drawing boards these days, from a big new retail project in Mystic to new malls being planned for both Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods.

I instinctively discount a lot of the new development talk.

The awarding of prime developer status for the open space at Howard and Bank streets in New London, for instance, reminds me that proposed projects for that land have come and gone, undeveloped, for almost as long as Connecticut has been separated from the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The new retail mall at Foxwoods, which originally was supposed to be under construction this time last year, has been in delay mode for a long time. The last official start date was this July and, well, July, as we all know, is melting away fast.

The one project proposal I would bet on is the National Coast Guard Museum for New London, which appears to be on a fast track, with a spring 2014 groundbreaking - there's even an exact date: May 15 - now planned.

I base my optimism for the museum project on a few things, with people and politics at the top of the list.

First off, the Coast Guard is now headed by Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr., the commandant who is also a native of Norwich and a history buff.

There seems little doubt that Papp wants to see the Coast Guard finally get its own museum and that he would delight in seeing it built on the water in New London, just down the hill from the Coast Guard Academy.

The clock is ticking on Papp's term, and I would bet having a museum groundbreaking on his watch is a huge priority.

The clock is also ticking on Gov. Dannel Malloy's first term, and I would bet that Malloy would like eastern Connecticut voters to see a major museum project underway on the New London waterfront, a project the governor can take some credit for, when they vote next November.

And of course New London Mayor Daryl Finizio and anyone else who now holds office in New London or ever hopes to will be sure not to do anything that in any way might be construed as standing in the way of making the museum happen.

The wheels are well greased.

To add credence to the notion that the museum project is on course, the National Coast Guard Museum Association, which is already on track to raise $1 million by Labor Day, this week launched a new website,

The site includes new renderings to further dazzle.

Indeed, the main building, which will have a curved glass wall looking out on the Thames River, actually has a point on the east side, hanging out over the water, that looks like the bow of a ship. One entrance, a tripod bridge over the railroad tracks, presents a big wall of glass facing the Parade downtown.

The entire building, you can see from the newest renderings, is even taller than the grand 19th century Henry Hobson Richardson train station that it will stand alongside.

It looks like this is the last year New London will throw a Sailfest on the waterfront that doesn't include at least the start of the city's great new museum.

And I am quite sure that important people are doing the best they can to tame bureaucracies, bend regulations, keep the regulatory wheels turning and pump the public money wells to make sure it happens, on a schedule that would make any Coast Guard watch keeper happy.

This is the opinion of David Collins.


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