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Developer submits revised mixed-use proposal for Five Corners in Groton City

Groton — A new proposal for the Five Corners area in the City of Groton, within walking distance of Electric Boat and Pfizer, calls for a mixed-use building with a New England-style façade and more commercial space on the first floor.

A developer, GBU Capital LLC. of Scottsdale, Ariz., has submitted a revised application for a mixed-use design district “floating zone” on the site at the corner of Benham and Poquonnock Roads, after the city's Planning and Zoning Commission denied in a 4-3 vote last May the developer's previous application.

Neighbors and commissioners had raised concerns, including about parking, and said the building’s architecture, height, and intensity, would not be compatible with the surrounding neighborhood. There were also some comments that the proposal would help spur economic development and provide housing as Electric Boat plans to increase hiring in the future.

City of Groton Mayor Keith Hedrick said the city listened to residents who spoke at the public hearing last spring, and the developer changed the building design and increased the commercial space on the first floor. He said the proposal would help the city address several issues, from housing to parking, associated with the planned expansion of Electric Boat.

“The new proposal shows a building with a very different, more traditional façade, a smaller footprint, and a greater percentage of the first floor dedicated to commercial space,” said City Planner Leslie Creane. The previous design has a more modern look

A public hearing is slated for Dec. 21 on the application for a Mixed Use Development District overlay zone at 2, 8, 22 and 46 Benham Road and 1 Mariani Court, which includes a zoning map amendment and text amendment. As with the previous application, this would be the first step in the process before the developer can submit a site plan for the development. The public hearing will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers in the Municipal Building.

The developer proposes a 78,285-square-foot, five-story building, with a lobby area, bike storage room and 3,833 feet of commercial space on the ground floor, and 80 apartment units on the upper four floors, according to the application. The apartments will be a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom units, and there will be 121 parking spaces: 24 covered parking spaces below the building, 48 surface spaces on the main site, and 49 additional spaces at a lot at nearby 46 Benham Road.

All the commercial and residential buildings and parking areas on the existing properties would be demolished to make way for the new project.

Seamus Moran, project manager with Loureiro Engineering Associates, said in the application that the project would help the city create a sense of place in the Five Corners area, a top priority in the city’s Plan of Conservation and Development.

“The unique architecture, including the roof-top plaza will draw people to this development and foster a community environment intrinsic to developing a sense of place,” he wrote. “By promoting pedestrian and bike access, this building will become the cornerstone of the Five Corners District. With the retail/commercial space on the ground floor, along with other neighborhood attractions, such as Washington and Fort Griswold Park, numerous restaurants and Electric Boat just minutes away, this new development will serve to greatly enhance this neighborhood and help create a sense of space for the Five Corners.”

Hedrick said the city is embracing the concept of mixed-use development, with commercial on the first floor and residential above, in an effort to draw more businesses to the city and make the city more walkable and bikeable so that residents, once they find a place to live, can frequent businesses within walking and biking distance.

"When you're looking at this overall, I think this is an opportunity for the City of Groton to embrace the future," he said.

As Electric Boat is poised to expand, Hedrick said the proposal would help provide housing for some of the 3,000 anticipated employees — over the next three to five years — and their families. It also would help eliminate some of the expected parking issues associated with the anticipated growth since the residents are anticipated to walk or bike to work. He said the proposed development would bring much needed commercial business to the city, which can help with the revitalization of Thames Street, and also would help increase the tax base.

He said city officials are not trying to take away the "small town feel" of the city, but Five Corners is near the city's industrial section and good place to have the residential units.

Chris West of GBU Capital LLC said Monday the company has a policy of not commenting on projects prior to a hearing.

k.drelich@theday.com

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