Company pitches hotel, conference center idea for New London's Fort Trumbull

New London — Optimus Senior Living, a Southampton, Mass., company building a 120-unit assisted-living complex in Bozrah, wants to build a waterfront hotel and conference center on the Fort Trumbull Peninsula.

The city's development arm, The Renaissance City Development Association, on Thursday signed a commitment to negotiate and named Optimus the preferred developer for Parcel 1. The RCDA's Executive Committee, acting on the recommendation of the RCDA's real estate committee, executed a commitment to negotiate and signed an access agreement, RCDA Executive Director Peter Davis said.

Optimus submitted an unsolicited proposal that consists of a 200-unit, four-story hotel and conference center over a drive-over parking level with amenities that could include a swimming pool, fitness center, banquet and function spaces and public restaurant.

The proposal, still in the conceptual design phase and subject to changes, comes on the heels of a proposal by AR Building Co. for a $20 million, 104-unit apartment complex on a nearby tract of land on the peninsula. That proposal came shortly after the RCDA and city settled a long-pending lawsuit from a previous developer whose plans never came to fruition.

In a letter submitted to the RCDA, Optimus representative Christian Boysen said the hotel will "open onto an extensive outdoor patio and landscaped area with gathering nodes, fire pits, and pathways down to the River Walk along the Thames."

"These are exceptionally reliable and competent individuals," RCDA President Linda Mariani said of Optimus. "We have vetted them and some of their other operations."

Mariani said Optimus has built five assisted-living centers, of which the company retains day-to-day control.

"They provided us with a plan that appears to work well in the Fort Trumbull area," Mariani said. "All of us at RCDA are excited and looking forward to working with Optimus representatives. They are looking forward to a potential partnership with the adjacent commercial fishermen, which may enhance the attraction of our Riverwalk and the Fort Trumbull peninsula as a whole. Great news for New London." 

Boysen said the multipurpose function spaces included in the initial design can accommodate "a range of opportunities, from weddings and other formal gatherings to corporate training sessions." The training and conference facilities will meet IT requirements for employers such as Electric Boat and Pfizer. Extended stay units also will be included.

Optimus is "exploring a concept that would include improvements to the large existing wooden dock to create additional water-dependent uses," he said in his letter to the RCDA.

"We have the stability, capacity and expertise to assist with the effort to enhance the Fort Trumbull District and to capitalize on current and future economic opportunities here," Boysen wrote.

Fort Trumbull was at the center of the 2005 landmark eminent domain case Kelo v. City of New London, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the city's favor and allowed the RCDA's predecessor, the New London Development Corporation, to clear out homes and use state funding to upgrade infrastructure to lay the groundwork for economic development projects.

However, ground has yet to be broken on any new projects in the designated development area.

g.smith@theday.com

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