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    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    New London officials celebrate speedy construction of downtown apartments

    Workers guide a wall panel into place at the Vessel building construction site Thursday, May 19, 2023, on Bank Street in New London. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    The Vessel building construction site Thursday, May 19, 2023, on Bank Street in New London that is nearing completion. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Mayor Michael Passero opens the event Thursday, May 19, 2023, at the Vessel construction site celebrating the building on Bank Street in New London as it nears completion. With Passero are city officials and Neil Rubler, third from right, CEO of Vessel Technologies. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Neil Rubler, chief operating officer of Vessel Technologies speaks Thursday, May 19, 2023, while he and Mayor Michael Passero answer questions at the Vessel building construction site on Bank Street in New London during an event to celebrate the building as it reaches the halfway point of construction. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    From left, New London attorney Bill Sweeney, John Strafaci, a member of the New London Planning and Zoning Commission, and Barry Levine, chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, talk Thursday, May 19, 2023, about the Vessel building under construction on Bank Street in New London. The men earlier attended an event celebrating the building as it nears the halfway point of construction. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Digital rendering of a bedroom at a Vessel apartment unit. (courtesy of Vessel Technologies, Inc.)
    Digital rendering of the living area at a Vessel apartment unit. (courtesy of Vessel Technologies, Inc.)
    A New York-based housing developer won approval on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022, for the construction of a 20-unit, multifamily building at 174 Bank St., New London, a site that some have called “the missing tooth” of Bank Street. (Conceptual rendering courtesy of Vessel Technologies)

    New London ― A gathering at the construction site of new modular apartments at 174 Bank St. Friday was not the usual groundbreaking or ribbon-cutting ceremony.

    Construction has started but is not finished. Three stories of elevated steel and dark gray metal walls at the site still appeared bare and hollow.

    Mayor Michael Passero said it was a celebration of the construction’s halfway point. He said the developers, New-York based Vessel Technologies, started putting together what is to be a five-story modern apartment building four weeks ago.

    As opposed to conventional construction, the energy-efficient development will be made of partially pre-fabricated materials allowing it to be built quicker. This is Vessel’s first residential building in Connecticut.

    Neil Rubler, founder and CEO of Vessel Technologies, said he was honored to stand at the site Friday looking out at incredible views of the Thames River, surrounded by so much history. He said the development under construction will house the next generation of residents building ships and contributing to the higher education institutions in the area.

    Rubler said the material for the building was pre-fabricated at a facility in York, Pa., and made in a way that makes the completed building and its construction more efficient. He said this method does not make it any less safer than other buildings and the material used, such as steel, is non-combustible and able to withstand major storms.

    The building as of now will have up to 30 one-bedroom apartments although Rubler said the structural components of the building can be changed to create two-bedrooms if needed.

    Passero said the “cutting edge” development is significant as the site has been vacant for nearly 30 years since the colonial-era building there burned to the ground.

    The cost to develop the site, because of its small size and location in a flood plain, led to little interest from developers.

    Vessel purchased the site for $225,000 in February 2022. The City Council in August approved a payment in lieu of taxes agreement with Vessel, providing the company an estimated 25.1% discount in tax payments to the city over 20 years.

    Felix Reyes, director of the city’s office of development and planning, said the site has been the “missing tooth” of Bank Street and it is finally getting a crown -- quality new housing that’s affordable.

    Rubler said the apartments would be affordable to those earning 80% of the area median income and likely priced between $1,600 to $1,700 for a one-bedroom apartment. He said the apartments would be for those earning $60,000 to $70,000 a year and who are being priced out of local quality housing.

    In the Norwich-New London area, one person who earns 80% AMI is making $57,512 based on 2022 HUD Median Incomes.

    Vessel’s rental prices align closely to The Docks apartments just down the street where a one-bedroom unit rents for between $1,600-$2,000. Rubler said competitive prices often do not include amenities or utilities costs and Vessel’s apartments would. He said this is made easier with electricity coming from a solar array on the roof.

    Rubler said advertising for the units began two weeks ago and Vessel has already had 80 to 90 applicants. He said Vessel aims to complete the building by Labor Day.

    The modern look of the building has been the subject of debate, with mixed reactions from the Historic District Commission and some members of the public.

    “I don’t think it’ll be out of place,” Passero said. “New London has eclectic buildings appropriate to the age they were built ... this is a 21st century building so it’s appropriate.”

    He said the building is better than having a blighted lot that was undeveloped for 30 years and was detrimental to the downtown.

    j.vazquez@theday.com

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