Lamont celebrates $5.9 million state grant for downtown New London improvements
New London— Gov. Ned Lamont visited the city Monday to celebrate the state’s investment of $5.9 million to upgrade downtown buildings and related infrastructure.
The grant was first announced in April.
The funding comes from the state Department of Economic and Community Development’s CT Community Challenge grant. DECD Deputy Commissioner Alexandra Daum said the $45 million awarded statewide in the first round of grants is an investment in improving the vibrancy of communities to “live, work, play in an equitable way.”
The department has allocated up to 50% of the funds to distressed municipalities, including New London.
Daum said a vast majority of the funding announced Monday will go towards construction costs for a set of downtown buildings that have been dilapidated or vacant for decades.
Adrianna Reyes, the city’s grants coordinator, said the state funding will go towards the city’s Downtown Revitalization Project, which totals $27.1 million in state, city and privately-funded redevelopment costs.
The project includes five private properties, and four will receive state grant funding to match a portion of investments from private developers and owners. The buildings receiving state funding include 46 Bank Street for first floor commercial space and 3 South Water Street for a boutique hotel. Receiving funds for renovated commercial space and apartments are 123 Bank St. and 133 Bank St.
The Garde Arts Center will receive a $2.1 million grant, that matched with a $1 million contribution from the Garde, will fund improvements to the building.
The state’s grant money will also go towards several city-funded projects that include transit station improvements, sidewalk enhancements, the Wyland mural restoration, lighting and traffic intersections.
Daum said the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut will be instrumental in attracting residential and commercial tenants once the buildings have been redeveloped.
“Businesses like to invest in cities that invest in themselves,” Lamont said.
He said the state has been slow in the past to invest on what makes the city “amazing” but now the state and city are taking buildings and filling them up.
“New London, it’s happening,” Mayor Michael Passero said, echoing the city’s new tag line.
Passero spoke adamantly about all the support the city has received from the governor’s office in recent years with projects such as the demolition and remediation of the Thames River Apartments for industrial use to the redevelopment of State Pier as a hub for the offshore wind power business.
Tony Sheridan, the president of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, and State Rep. Anthony Nolan, D-New London. also spoke Monday. Children from the city’s Learning Drop-In Center, invited by City Councilor Reonna Dyess, who is also the program’s executive director, sat on the steps of City Hall as the officials spoke.
Before the news conference, Lamont and others toured the Manwaring building, a once vacant building on State Street being renovated to house Connecticut College students beginning this fall. The building is part of the Downtown Revitalization Project.
Rod King, the dean of institutional equity and inclusion at Connecticut College, spoke at the conference and said the project is the latest example of the long and rich relationship between the college and New London. He said 63 students, mostly juniors and seniors, have been selected or have won the lottery to live at the apartments. King said the partnership further strengthens the college’s connection with downtown.
Editor’s note: this version has been corrected to say the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut.