Hotel proposal for Fort Trumbull off the table, new idea emerges

FILE - New London Seafood cooperative dock in Fort Trumbull neighborhood, New London, from the air Saturday, September 14, 2013.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
FILE - New London Seafood cooperative dock in Fort Trumbull neighborhood, New London, from the air Saturday, September 14, 2013. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

New London — Negotiations between the city’s development arm and a developer who had envisioned a hotel and conference center on a prime waterfront parcel at Fort Trumbull have ended.

Talks with Massachusetts-based owner and developer Jay Patel, of the J-Patel Hotel Group, ended cordially on Feb. 6, said Renaissance City Development Association Executive Director Peter Davis.

“The numbers didn’t work for either of us,” Davis said.

Davis said that Patel had completed an engineering study and environmental assessment of the property and that site development costs were a factor in the mutual agreement to end negotiations. He said he was not at liberty to discuss any details of the negotiations because they include proprietary information.

Patel, who was out of the country this week, could not be reached to comment.

Davis said the 90-acre Fort Trumbull peninsula is a brownfield site that has its challenges because of state and federal regulations but did not see it as a major impediment to future commercial developers.

Patel’s conceptual plans detailed a $15 million hotel and conference center with a stand-alone restaurant, coffee shop and a future marina and docking facility on the 9.4-acre parcel known as Parcel 1 — long identified as a hotel site.

The Fort Trumbull area was once the site of private residences, Navy property, a vacant oil terminal and railroad yard. The razing of homes was the focus of the eminent domain fight that led to a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2005 that allowed the city to take property for economic development. An estimated $90 million in state and federal funds have been invested to help clean up the properties since that time.

The commercial fishing fleet, known collectively as New London Seafood, has operated from the pier on the site since the late 1980s. While the RCDA has talked about moving the fleet to the nearby Central Vermont Railroad Pier, or C.V. Pier, the state funding to make that happen have not materialized. Davis said there were ongoing discussions about other alternatives.

“That was not an overriding factor in the decision,” Davis said of the presence of the fishing fleet.

With the term of the exclusive negotiation period between the RCDA and Patel now ended, New London Seafood is expected to pitch an idea of its own for Fort Trumbull.

Attorney Gordon Videll, who represents New London Seafood, said new ideas are needed to help spur some development.

He said the peninsula is ripe for something akin to Gosman’s Dock in Montauk, N.Y., which includes a restaurant, clam bar, clothing and gourmet food shops, motels and tourist services and special events during the peak season.

Using the fishing fleet as an anchor, Videll said he envisions a fish market, high end restaurant, coffee shop and a retail village that incorporates a residential component.

“The key is to make it a destination that attracts people, attracts families,” Videll said. “Fishing fleets are a tourist attraction throughout the East Coast. That’s what we’re lacking down there.”

Videll said the idea would lead to an expansion and not a relocation of the existing fishing fleet.

“I think we need one success to bring in other people. Right now, everyone is gun shy,” he said.

Videll said several steps will need to be taken before any proposal is submitted.

Davis said the RCDA will consider all options and said he expects at least some preliminary discussions with New London Seafood soon.

g.smith@theday.com

 

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