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    Thursday, July 18, 2024

    New London approves Fort Trumbull apartment, garage projects

    Attorney Bill Sweeney, representing developer RJ Development + Advisors, LLC, outlines plans for 500 apartments and 1,200-spot garage at Fort Trumbull to the Planning & Zoning Commission on Wednesday afternoon. (John Penney)

    New London ― The Planning & Zoning Commission gave a New Haven development company the go-ahead on Wednesday to transform three parcels of Fort Trumbull land into two apartment complexes with a total of 500 units and a six-story parking garage.

    The commission granted special permit and site plan approvals to RJ Development + Advisors, LLC, doing business as RJDA Fort Trumbull AA, LCC, to build two five-story apartment complexes — one on Nameaug Street and another at 28 Walbach St. — along with a 1,200-space parking garage at 26 East St.

    Ahead of the vote, Attorney Bill Sweeney, representing RJDA, reminded committee members of the decades of inaction at the Fort Trumbull site.

    “This is a day a lot of us have been waiting for,” he said, calling the proposed construction a way to transform the peninsula into a “place of new vibrancy”and “complete the redevelopment of the Fort Trumbull area.”

    Several parcels on the peninsula have been vacant for almost 20 years, the result of a controversial demolition and development push by the New London Development Corp. that led to the landmark 2005 U.S. Supreme Court eminent domain decision, Kelo v. New London.

    In January, the three city-owned properties totaling 6.28 acres now poised for development were sold to RJ Development for $500,001 through an agreement with the Renaissance City Development Association, or RCDA, the city’s development arm.

    Both the Nameaug and Walbach street apartment projects call for a mix of studio and one- and two-bedroom units with on-site property parking. The proposed East Street garage will house up to 1,200 vehicles and is expected to be heavily used by employees at the nearby Electric Boat engineering offices.

    The apartments will be market-rate units, Sweeney said, and will be promoted to a specific demographic of renter. The project does not include any affordable housing.

    “There’s a sizable deficit of housing for people with disposable income,” Sweeney said.

    Tentative plans calls for construction of the Nameaug Street building to begin in 2024 and last for two years. The Walbach portion of the work will not start until 2026 while the garage construction could start next year.

    Jason Rudnick, RJDA principal, said he was “thrilled” by the commission’s votes.

    “I look forward to continuing our work with the city of New London,” he said.

    Commission member Ronna Stuller cast the sole “no” votes of the night, declining to support the Nameaug Street and garage projects.

    Other Fort Trumbull project stalled

    Wednesday’s votes came almost exactly 21 months after commission members approved plans for a 104-unit apartment complex and an extended-stay hotel on the northeast end of the peninsula near the Fort Trumbull Riverwalk.

    The Massachusetts-based Optimus Construction Management, which specializes in senior living facilities, bought 4 acres of city-owned land in February 2022 for $750,000 for the hotel and apartment building projects, though no work has yet started at the site.

    RCDA Executive Director Peter Davis said he met with Optimus principals on Tuesday for a project update. He said the supply-chain issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic have plagued the project much like others across the country.

    “It all kind of fell apart on them, but they have not abandoned the project,” Davis said on Wednesday. “They were working on finishing up projects in Maine and Massachusetts and their intention is to move forward with (the Fort Trumbull) work.”

    The Optimus deal represented the first time in two decades that a private firm became a Fort Trumbull district landowner. Other parcels in the neighborhood are home to the New London water treatment plant, Fort Trumbull State Park and an under-construction $40 million city community center.

    Development on the peninsula had been hindered by restrictions the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection placed on the number of residential units.

    In 2000, the state and city established a municipal development plan with a flood management certificate approved by DEEP that limited the number of residential units to 84. The certificate was first modified in 2011 to allow 104 units and then again this year to allow a total of 604 housing units on the peninsula.

    j.penney@theday.com

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