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Apartments envisioned for former Colonel Ledyard School site in Groton

Groton — A developer is proposing to reuse the former Colonel Ledyard School property, located at 120 West St. in the City of Groton, as rental housing, at a time when nearby Electric Boat is expanding.

Bill Bellock, owner and principal member of Bellsite Development LLC. of Manchester, unveiled on Wednesday his conceptual plans to convert the former school into apartments and build additional units on the site. Bellsite Development, the preferred developer for the site, would need to obtain local approvals, but Wednesday's presentation served to introduce the concept.

The approximately 8-acre property located near the Five Corners area and Electric Boat, houses the 20,378-square-foot school building that was constructed in 1963 and closed in 2008, according to a Request for Proposals.

Bellock said in a phone interview that he was drawn to the site due to its proximity to Electric Boat, as well as Pfizer. With people interested in walking and having a smaller carbon footprint, the proposed development would provide an opportunity for Electric Boat employees to walk to work. In addition to young professionals, he also anticipates the development would appeal to seniors.

As the first phase, Bellsite Development would convert the former school building into 14 to 20 market-rate apartments, Bellock said. The majority would be one-bedroom units.

Bellock, who has about 40 years of experience in real estate, recently converted the St. Adalbert School in Enfield into apartments, a project that he said is similar to the Colonel Ledyard School.

Bellsite also is proposing up to 50 to 60 additional units in multiple buildings on the remainder of the Colonel Ledyard site, and the company would construct the buildings one at a time, Bellock said. The number of units, which would be a mix of one- and two-bedroom market-rate units, will depend on a closer look at what the site will accommodate.

At Wednesday’s presentation of the conceptual plan, neighbors said traffic is a top concern. They said cars are already speeding in an area where children are playing, and they were concerned about the traffic from 80 additional units and also asked if the number of units could be limited.

Local officials said traffic would be addressed as part of the overall approval process, and there will be hearings for people to share their comments.

City of Groton Mayor Keith Hedrick said several ideas were proposed for the property, including warehousing for Electric Boat, which was dismissed due to concerns over traffic and trucks.

Town Mayor Patrice Granatosky said the idea is for people to walk or bike from the apartments to work.

Bellock said it’s still too early to know how many apartments will be housed on site, but 80 represents the "absolute maximum" number of units based on acreage. Paige Bronk, economic and community development manager for the town of Groton, said the city and town are willing to be flexible to find out the best use of the property, including the maximum number of units.

Bronk said by phone that the community has a high demand for young workforce housing, and the city also faces a parking challenge with the expansion of Electric Boat.

He said a review committee with representatives from the town and city arrived at a consensus that apartments, with a small footprint and located in a residential neighborhood within walking distance of Electric Boat, would benefit the community.

He said the next step is to finalize an agreement between the town and the developer, which will go before the Town Council for approval at a later time.

The town-owned property, which is located in the city, also needs approvals from the city, including from the Planning and Zoning Commission, Bellock said.

Bronk said the project will require some lead and asbestos remediation typical of school buildings from that time.

Bellock said he would like to have all the necessary approvals in a year, and then start the first phase of converting the school building into apartments so tenants could hopefully move in during the fall of 2022.

He said he does not anticipating starting construction on the additional units on the rest of the site until early 2022.

k.drelich@theday.com

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