New London council to take up plan to consolidate city offices

New London — The city will open bids Thursday from the two companies offering to lease space in anticipation of its fast-moving plans to consolidate administrative offices.

The bid opening will be followed by a special City Council meeting next Monday, when the council could decide to authorize the city’s Office of Development and Planning to start negotiations with one of the two competing property owners.

Fairfield-based Julian Enterprises and Old Lyme-based Readco have offered proposals for space as the city considers selling off at least three of four city-owned buildings. The move is an attempt to save money on yearly maintenance costs on the aging structures and avoid future capital costs, as well as to provide a single location for most city departments.

The city has asked for a spot with 30,000 to 35,000 square feet of office space and a 20- to 25-year lease with additional 10-year options, that would be ready for occupancy by fall in a location within one mile of City Hall.

The two options pitched on Monday are in stark contrast to each other.

One is a historic downtown bank building at 63 Eugene O’Neill Drive with limited parking but a mere block from City Hall. It is owned by Readco. The other, at 6 Shaw’s Cove, is a portion of a four-story contemporary office complex owned by Julian Enterprises with ample parking and is a half-mile from City Hall.

Representatives from both companies made presentations to the council this past Monday, promising alterations to the buildings to fit the needs of the city.

Council President Don Venditto said the council has reached a consensus that consolidation is in the best interests of the city but the numbers need to make sense.

“I think the consensus was: We do have to do this but we can’t do it blindly,” Venditto said. “We need to go through this exercise completely before we understand what the cost ramifications would be going down the path of leasing space versus the cost of staying in the current buildings.”

After the bid opening, Venditto said he expects Felix Reyes, director of the Office of Development and Planning, will help boil down the numbers into something easily digestible for the council, “comparing apples to apples.”

The justification for the move is that the city spends $313,000 annually on operating expenses at four buildings, including City Hall, the Richard R. Martin Center at 120 Broad St., Stanton Building at 111 Union St and finance building at 13-15 Masonic St., Reyes said. The city also has not kept up on maintenance, leading to an estimated $8 million in future renovation costs.

The Martin Center already is on the market, and the city’s Park and Recreation Department moved to the Stanton Building earlier this year.

Reyes called the move a “critical decision on the future of our facilities.”

g.smith@theday.com

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