Fort Trumbull development about to pop

After years of frustration, development could soon be coming to the Fort Trumbull peninsula and nearby parcels. The catalyst is the growth of well-paying jobs at the Electric Boat offices there.

A couple of weeks ago the Executive Board of the Renaissance City Development Association approved a set of procedures for processing development proposals received outside of the request for proposals process. In the past, the development agency would periodically issue an RFP in hopes of attracting developers, only to get little or no response.

RCDA President Linda Mariani said in the last few months, however, developers have been contacting the agency. The board recognized it needed procedures for handling these proposals so that it can evaluate the projects using objective standards.

The fact that the development group needs such procedures in place because it is getting multiple proposals is a big deal.

Both Mariani and RCDA Executive Director Peter Davis said for proprietary reasons it is too soon to reveal potential development groups, but Davis said in a couple of months some of the plans will be ready to go public and be presented to the City Council.

It should be no surprise that developers are recognizing that the young engineers and other professionals hired to design submarines are an opportunity. Many would welcome modern, nearby rental housing in an urban center. Retail development could also likely arise to serve this group.

I confirmed that one area of interest is the two large parcels under RCDA control across from the Lawrence + Memorial Medical Group offices on Howard Street. L+M owns a sliver of land between the parcels and a source at the hospital confirmed a party has interest in acquiring it to smooth the path to future development. The parcels would need some environmental cleanup.

A source in city government told me that a hotel may be back in the mix. A combination of businesspeople in town for EB-related matters and tourists to the area provide the customers necessary to make such a project viable.

The RCDA website website promotes the potential of Parcel 1, located on the northern point of the peninsula and the largest parcel, for a hotel with up to 250 rooms and suites, which "would be expected to include a waterside restaurant and some meeting/event space."

Mariani expressed a high degree of confidence that this time development will happen, saying that the EB engineering offices have been a game changer.

Spurring more development was the vision when Pfizer built the two glittering office buildings on the waterfront with the aid of state investments and lavish tax breaks. But years lost on the ugly eminent domain fight and the subsequent recession and its aftermath grounded those plans. Fort Trumbull became a symbol of failure. Pfizer left, selling to EB.

Unlike his predecessor, Mayor Daryl Finizio, who wanted to keep reopening the eminent domain wounds and punish the development agency — formerly the New London Development Corp. — for past sins, Mayor Michael Passero has welcomed RCDA as a partner.

Passero found the funding to hire Davis, a former Norwich planner with long experience working with developers.

“It’s been a godsend having Peter,” said Mariani. “He talks in (the developer’s) language. He gets them the information they need.”

In their “Statement of Interest,” RCDA requires developers to state the nature of the project proposal, the background qualifications of the development group, past project experience, and financial and performance guarantees.

Upscale downtown apartments, a future Coast Guard Museum, a unique magnet school system, and development activity at Fort Trumbull.

New London may yet live up to its potential.

Paul Choiniere is the editorial page editor.

 

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