New owner weighing options for former New London school
New London — The new owner of the former Edgerton School property said he is exploring ideas for future use of a site that has for years generated ideas by developers who could never quite turn those ideas into reality.
The 3.3-acre parcel at 120 Cedar Grove Ave., just off of Colman Street, has at various time been the proposed site of an 60,000-square-foot sports complex, a self-storage facility, a city-owned recreational center and a $40 million affordable housing complex.
Timothy Londregan, a principal with both Longshore Groton I LLC and New London-based Londregan Commercial Real Estate, purchased the property, along with three adjacent parcels, for $100,000 in May.
Cleanup of the long-vacant property and rehabilitation of the homes is already underway. Londregan said work includes debris removal from inside and around the dilapidated former school, trimming and removal of trees and environmental remediation of the school and the three adjoining properties.
Londregan said he is open to any ideas and has engineers, architects and surveyors generating plans for redevelopment of the school that closed in 2006. He said there are no immediate plans to demolish it and he is consulting with the city about future use.
“In our acquisition of this most prominent (former) city property, we did not enter into the venture with one preconceived notion of an end use,” Londregan wrote in a letter to the city’s Office of Planning and Development.
In the June 20 letter shared with The Day, Londregan said the initial plan was to demolish the school and three houses at 124, 130 and 136 Cedar Grove Ave. and that he'd considered a self-storage facility on site.
“The process of cleanup and exposure of the existing structures has opened up a whole host of ideas and opportunities for repurposing these buildings, restoring housing units rather than removing them, and preserving the character that these buildings actually hold,” Londregan wrote.
He clarified that housing is not contemplated for the former school building.
The purchase comes after several years of unsuccessful attempts by the former owners — Massachusetts-based nonprofit Affordable Housing and Services Collaborative — to secure state funding and construct affordable housing at the site. The nonprofit, in partnership with Peabody Properties, was enlisted by the New London Housing Authority in 2015 to develop plans for a 124-unit development at the site to house residents of the former Thames River Apartments on Crystal Avenue. Opposition from neighbors and unsuccessful attempts to garner state funding three years in a row halted those plans and the scaled-back plans that came later.
The property went back on the market in 2020 even as Affordable Housing and Services Collaborative continued to spend money on taxes and maintenance of the site. It paid $600,000 for the 3.3-acre property in 2016, bought the three abutting properties to expand the area and was spending about $100,000 a year on taxes and maintenance, Affordable Housing and Services Collaborative Inc. President and Executive Director Michael Mattos said.
Londregan, whose company Londregan Commercial Real Estate Group had been marketing the property for the owners, then decided to buy the property.
I feel like a weight’s been lifted off our shoulders," Mattos said. "We started this process in March of 2015."
While Mattos said he still thinks it is a great site for housing, his organization has been frustrated by rejections in its applications to the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority.
As for the low selling price, Mattos said that from his company’s perspective, the top priority at this time was getting a liability off of its books. “We were highly motivated sellers and we had no other interest and no other offers,” he said.
Land-use approval for housing at the site expires in September.
The Edgerton School was built in 1962 and hosted elementary school students until it closed as part of a consolidation of elementary schools.
Interest by developers started in 2007, when the City Council authorized the sale of the property for $325,000 to developer Peter Levine. Levine initially planned to demolish the one-story school and build 32 townhouse-style homes. He had a track record in the city, having rehabilitated both the former SNET building at 73 Washington St. and the United Electric building at 13 Washington St. into housing and commercial spaces.
Levine later abandoned his housing plans because of economic conditions and local opposition but came back to pitch the idea of a sports complex on the site. That idea never came to fruition. By 2016 the property, with a small portion sold off by Levine to accommodate a new auto parts store on Colman Street, was in foreclosure and the city had secured an agreement to buy back the property from Levine for $350,000. Mayor Michael Passero at the time saw an opportunity to build a community center, but the City Council balked at the idea and let a deadline for the purchase pass.
Levine that same year sold the property to Affordable Housing and Services Collaborative.
The property is adjacent to Veterans Field, a property that was used as a landfill in the 1930s that later became a recreational field before it was used to house portable classrooms. It has since been cleaned up by the city and revamped as a sports field.