New London applies for $10 million more in state funding to upgrade downtown buildings
New London ― The city is requesting almost $10 million in state funding as it works to improve infrastructure for downtown buildings as part of its Downtown Revitalization Project.
In April, the state Department of Economic and Community Development awarded the city $5.9 million through its CT Community Challenge grant. The grant aims to improve the vibrancy of communities across the state.
On Monday, the City Council authorized the mayor to apply for $10 million more in funding in a second round of grants. The application proposals include a student resource center for the local colleges, a laboratory for a company planning to move downtown, and additional funding for the proposed community center.
Elizabeth Nocera, the city’s economic development coordinator, said the city will submit the application Friday.
The grant has a match requirement, meaning the developers will provide at least a 25% match of the overall project costs.
The city’s Downtown Revitalization Project so far totals $27.1 million in state, city and privately-funded redevelopment costs and includes five private properties: 46 Bank St., 3 South Water St., 123 Bank St., 133 Bank St. and the Garde Arts Center.
Apart from the Garde, the properties will be redeveloped commercial spaces, mixed residential and commercial buildings and a boutique hotel.
The Manwaring Building at 223 State St. is also a part of the revitalization project but has not received state grant funding. The building, leased by Connecticut College for the next five years, reopened in late August to house 60 students in its upper levels.
With the new round of applications, the city is looking for approximately $1 million dollars from the state to make the lower levels of the Manwaring Building a “Tri-College Hub,” or a student resource center, for Connecticut College, Mitchell College and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.
The city’s Director of Economic Development & Planning Felix Reyes on Monday said the city has failed to create a college town. He said the downtown student center would put all the colleges in one center.
Nocera said the space was gutted during construction and needs improvements.
She said the grant application proposes to develop the right side of the first floor and the basement floor into a retail souvenir store, café, multi-purpose classroom, tech room and office space opportunities for students and the general public.
The city is asking for an estimated $1.7 million to develop a $2.7 million drug testing laboratory at 224 Bank St. Genesys Diagnostics, a lab that provides diagnostic services such as COVID-19 testing to health care providers, purchased an office complex of four buildings in February, moving its headquarters from Montville to New London.
The city is requesting about $1 million for the former Metropolitan Hotel at 27 Bank St., owned by Brandt Gentry and Creative Property Concepts, LLC. Nocera said the building has been vacant for almost two decades and is to be developed into nine market rate apartments with retail on the first floor.
The developer has proposed to match the grant with $315,000.
Another application is centered on using $1 million to bolster the arts, culture and tourism in the downtown. Nocera said this includes fixing or repainting several murals and adding way-finding signs, electronic kiosks and gateways.
With a part of the city now established as a cultural district, Nocera said the district is required to have a minimum of two gateways to welcome visitors. She said the grant is matched with $175,000 of funds from the American Rescue Plan Act and the Cultural District Commission.
The same application also proposes helping transform the former Apostolic Cathedral of Hope on 157 Green St into the Stone Temple Venue, a place for future events. Downtown restaurateur Rod Cornish purchased the property for $315,000 in April, and has proposed to match the grant with $75,000.
Lastly, the city is asking the DECD for $5 million to go towards the construction of the city’s community center in Fort Trumbull. The city would match the grant with its $30 million bond and a nearly $1.2 million DECD’s brownfield grant.
Nocera said the $5 million would be for “anticipated gap funding” to cover inflation, construction supplies and labor shortages.
The construction for the center is currently out to bid. At Monday’s council meeting, Mayor Michael Passero said he can’t speculate what the results will be. He said the market has changed in the past two years.
Unlike the other applications, the grant money would go to construct a building, not redevelop an existing property.