Norwich, New London and Groton included in governor's Opportunity Zone plan

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Seven U.S. Census tracts from southeastern Connecticut — three each in New London and Norwich and one in Groton — will be included in Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s plan to request federal Opportunity Zone status.

The Opportunity Zone program, created as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, provides a federal tax incentive for investors to re-invest unrealized capital gains into development projects in designated zones. In exchange for their investments, opportunity fund investors will be able to decrease their federal tax burden.

Governors were authorized to submit plans designating up to 25 percent of the qualified census tracts in their respective state as opportunity zones, subject to approval of the Secretary of the Treasury.

Malloy solicited nominations from cities and towns in February, and Norwich, New London and Groton were among the 72 areas selected for nomination in 27 cities and towns across the state.

“These opportunity zone nominations we have made will go a long way in encouraging new investment and development in areas that will be critical to Connecticut’s future,” Malloy said Friday in a news release. “I’d like to thank all of the towns that submitted applications, and congratulate those chosen for this exciting new program.”

Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom had submitted six census tracts — all the tracts that qualified for the designation in the city — and three were accepted. The three tracts cover the downtown, Thamesville and the Laurel Hill-East Side areas of the city.

Nystrom listed the Thamesville tract, which runs from the Montville border to the historic Uncas Leap area on the Yantic River, as the city’s top priority, with downtown as second, and the tract including Laurel Hill and a portion of the East Side as third.

Nystrom said Norwich should be poised to take advantage of the Opportunity Zone program, with the region’s two casinos nearby and the plans by Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment to redevelop the former Norwich Hospital property.

Nystrom thanked the several Norwich city departments and the Norwich Community Development Corp. for helping to put the city’s application together.

All three New London census tracts nominated by Mayor Michael Passero were included in the governor’s proposed plan. Passero nominated the downtown area, Hodges Square and State Pier area and the Fort Trumbull area for the program.

Passero said the designation would allow the city to “attract more private developers, creating jobs and opportunities where we need them the most.”

The zone in Groton would cover the census tract at the intersection of Route 184, Interstate 95 and Route 12, a mainly commercial area, said Paige Bronk, the town’s manager of economic and community development.

“It’s a great opportunity for Groton,” he said. “It’s a federal program that will provide tax benefits in the form of capital gains relief to investors.” Town officials still are figuring out the details, but the town would not have to monitor or manage the program, he said.

The Opportunity Zone plan encourages investors to pool their resources to increase the impact on the designated zones. These funds may seed new businesses, expand existing firms or undertake real estate development, Malloy’s release said.

Qualifying investments may include a broad range of commercial and residential investments, transit-oriented development, affordable housing, mixed-use development, and energy efficiency and renewable energy projects on public and private assets.

Day Staff Writer Deborah Straszheim contributed to this report.

c.bessette@theday.com

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