New developer moves forward with plans for New London residential project

New London — The Renaissance City Development Association, the city’s development arm, on Thursday approved a preliminary agreement with a developer with plans for a 197-unit apartment complex on Howard Street.

The RCDA Executive Committee’s agreement with RJ Development + Advisors LLC, a New Haven-based commercial real estate development company, represents the latest first step in the quest to complete the first “out-of-the-ground” project in the so-called Fort Trumbull municipal development area.

The area — part of which was at the center of the 2005 landmark eminent domain case Kelo v. City of New London — remains undeveloped and was most recently saddled with a lawsuit from a previous developer.

Shipway 221, a residential proposal pitched by the Tagliatela family for the same Howard Street parcels, dropped their plans in August after two years of negotiations with the RCDA and attempts to find a financial partner.

RCDA Executive Director Peter Davis said Thursday’s commitment allows RJ Development to start the design work for the building, submit a business plan and for the RCDA to firm up a sales agreement for the land, which covers a parcel formerly home to Hughie's Restaurant.

The project will need state and local permits before it is brought to a final vote by the RCDA and the City Council. There is a 12-month period for the due diligence work to be completed, but Davis said the would-be developers have inspired confidence that could be done sooner.

Representatives from Yale New Haven Health attended the meeting to express approval for a land swap that will add to the size of its parking area at the medical office complex across the street at 194 Howard St. in exchange for a slice of land owned by the hospital needed for the development of the apartment building.

Jason Rudnick, principal with RJ Development, said he already has architects and engineers identified for the project. Rudnick is a University of Connecticut Law School graduate who practiced law before moving into the business of real estate development.

Rudnick’s father-in-law grew up in New London, he said, and is familiar with the area.

“I’ve said for a very long time that I didn’t understand why there isn’t more development in New London,” Rudnick said.

RJ Development has built several Rite Aid Pharmacies, a $15 million, 30,000-square-foot built-to-suit corporate headquarters for Continuum of Care Inc. and the 160-unit College & Crown, billed as a “premier luxury multi-family rental apartment development in downtown New Haven.”

Meanwhile, on the Fort Trumbull peninsula, the RCDA is working with two different developers exploring the feasibility of a hotel on one parcel and residential development on another.

Representatives from the RCDA and AR Builders, which is constructing an apartment complex at the corner of Bank and Howard streets, recently met with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection in an unsuccessful attempt to loosen restrictions of a federally designated floodplain.

Optimus, which recently celebrated the opening of an upscale $17 million, 115-unit senior housing complex called Elmbrook Village in Bozrah, is performing due diligence in its bid to build a hotel on a different parcel.

Davis, in a recent update to the RCDA, said groundwater samples at the site for the hotel turned up some heating oil in the water table and costs for remediation are being assessed.

g.smith@theday.com

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