Redevelopment plans sought for Hodges Square, Thames Street area

The cities of New London and Groton, in partnership with Thames River Innovation Place, are seeking a consultant to prepare redevelopment analysis plans for both Hodges Square in New London and Thames/Bridge Street in the City of Groton.

The process will "serve to strengthen the function, sense of place, economic vitality, and transportation infrastructure to create a blueprint for redevelopment with a focus on specific and individualized real estate analysis and recommendations," reads the request for proposals, released Friday.

The deadline to submit proposals is July 30. The RFP does not provide a cost limit or range, but 100 percent of the funding will come through Thames River Innovation Place.

TRIP is one of four innovation places designed by CTNext, a public-private network aimed at boosting entrepreneurs. CTNext gave TRIP a $900,000 matching grant for its first year, $200,000 of which has been set aside for Placemaking Redevelopment Initiatives & Plans. The match has come from federal grants.

The redevelopment analysis falls under the umbrella of Placemaking Redevelopment Initiatives & Plans, one of five TRIP projects. (The others are Community Concierge, Connecticut Undersea Supply Chain Consortium, Cultivator Kitchen and Ignite.)

David McBride, executive director of Thames River Innovation Place, said the redevelopment analysis should help rejuvenate distressed areas.

He also questioned, "What can we do to bring these two communities together by using the bridge?"

Hodges Square is a 65.8-acre neighborhood that connects Connecticut College and the Coast Guard Academy to the southern portion of New London, with Williams Street as its main artery.

Features of the Thames/Bridge Street area include residential and commercial buildings, historic sites, Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park and Bill Memorial Library.

The RFP states that recommendations for development should encourage the principles of walkability, mixed uses, compatible architecture, smart transportation and sustainability.

Some of the goals of the analysis are to evaluate signage and public art opportunities, establish priority sites for redevelopment, provide recommendations for desired zone changes, and assess parking conditions and future capacity.

The plan must integrate in-progress initiatives, such as tax increment financing around Thames Street and the Federal Transportation Alternatives Block Grant for Hodges Square.

In addition, the U.S. Department of the Treasury in May approved an Opportunity Zone that includes Hodges Square.

"All of these things are colliding at the perfect time," McBride said. "They are colliding, and they should really be a boon to economic development."

McBride said he is not going into the RFP with any predetermined thoughts, and that he is not necessarily looking for just traditional economic development.

Sybil Tetteh, city planner for New London, said Hodges Square and the Thames Street area were selected for the RFP because officials "realized that those places need to be strengthened, in terms of economic vitality, placemaking and also creating a much stronger sense of place."

New London Landmarks in 2013 developed a master plan for Hodges Square and the surrounding area, utilizing a grant from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development.

Tetteh said the upcoming analysis will build on community involvement from the master plan and solicit ideas from the Hodges Square Village Association.

Some argue that there are too many studies out there, but McBride said this study is different because it's specific in scope rather than a broad-based economic development study, while Tetteh said studies are necessary to get a sense of what is needed.

"In the future or as we work forward," Tetteh said, "we can refer back to these plans, and see what the recommendations are, and start to implement those."

e.moser@theday.com

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