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Floating hotel and market among ideas floated for New London waterfront

New London — A floating hotel, a market and a pool with an upper-level bar and lounge and a marina for transient boaters with a large enough space to accommodate 150-foot-long mega yachts.

These are just some of the improvements envisioned for the city's waterfront by a Long Island-based design and engineering firm. Advanced American Engineering now plans to spend the next year trying to determine how much of its plan can get through the state permitting process.

The group secured prime developer status from the City Council last week for the area encompassing Waterfront Park, a walking pier that Mayor Michael Passero said is underutilized and in need of a major boost of water-related activity. Advanced American will have exclusive right to negotiate a development agreement or lease with no promises yet from the city.

The agreement allows the company to spend money on its plans without fear of the city negotiating with another party. Company representatives are expected in the city this week to verify water depths along the waterfront.

Through its public relation firm, Quinn & Hary, the city released the conceptual plans on Friday that show everything from a water limo service to to a helipad. The designs also show a spot on the pier for concerts, farmers market and pop-up events. David Hancock, a partner in Advanced American Engineering, said he drew up the plans with an excitement for what could be. He now realizes the area of Custom House Pier is occupied by a restaurant through a lease with the city.

Hancock described his company as a “small niche business” that performs design and engineering work and will work with backing of The Crest Group, a private equity, investment and real estate development group.

Hancock said his company comes up with the interesting and unique ideas.

“The Crest Group follows through on our visions and kind of makes things come together,” Hancock said.

The two companies have partnered on several projects, Hancock said, including one in Sea Bright, N.J., called The New Covesail, in which they are in the permitting phase for a design of a waterfront area that will include a boutique hotel, restaurant and large-vessel marina.

Hancock and Passero said they have met on several occasions with officials from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to try to gauge what may or may not be possible on New London’s waterfront.

As opposed to the restaurant on the pier, which needs to be moved in the event of a storm surge, Hancock said his idea is to have most of the development on the water to avoid a similar permitting issue. He said the reaction from DEEP was hard to read but joked that he didn’t think the agency was enthralled by the floating pool idea.

Passero said the idea for the development came unsolicited to the city. While the city wasn’t planning to issue a request for proposals, he said he welcomed the plan as he would any idea that could bring economic development to the city.

“We’ve got nothing to lose,” Passero said of the proposal. “They share our excitement with developing the waterfront with private equity.”

Passero said in some ways he views the existing Waterfront Park as a barrier from getting people on the water. The city has a mooring field, but the pier was not designed to tie up boats, something dock space will remedy.

“We’ve proven in the decades (Waterfront Park) has been here it’s not providing for the economy of the city,” Passero said. “It’s completely inaccessible to a boat.”

Attorney Mathew Greene, who represents Advanced American Engineering, called the idea of a major waterfront development a “game changer” for a city that has long talked about its potential. He said he thinks the growth of the waterfront would act as an impetus for filling downtown storefronts and be a centerpiece for the downtown.

Passero said in addition to his vision of a bustling, working waterfront he’s always thought the city, with its deepwater channels, could act as a stopover for travelers from places such as the Hamptons and Martha’s Vineyard. Smaller and larger vessels could bring in more tourists and help support existing businesses.

He said the city’s lease to restaurateur Frank Maratta for the seasonal City Dock Restaurant & Oyster Bar on Custom House Pier proves that activity on the waterfront will attract people.

The City Council is expected to host a presentation on the development as early as Monday.

g.smith@theday.com

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