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    Thursday, July 25, 2024

    Major project proposed for former movie theater site in Pawcatuck

    An architectural rendering of one of the apartment buildings being proposed for the former Hoyt’s/Regal Cinema property on Route 2 in Pawcatuck. Rendering courtesy of READCO.

    Stonington ― READCO of Old Lyme is proposing to turn the former Hoyt’s/Regal Cinema on Route 2 into a recreational center for pickleball as well as constructing four buildings with 124 apartments and 10,000 feet of commercial space on the remainder of the site.

    The Old Lyme-based firm is slated to present its design plan to the Architectural Design Review Board on Monday at 6 p.m. at Pawcatuck Middle School. The board will only review the design and appearance of the buildings and make a recommendation to the Planning and Zoning Commission.

    Formal approval of the estimated $25 million project is up to the Planning and Zoning Commission, which will schedule a public hearing in the coming months on READCO’s application for a zone change to Neighborhood Design District as well as approval of a master plan and site plan.

    During those hearings, the PZC will consider issues such as traffic, parking, lighting, landscaping and other issues. The land between Route 2 and Voluntown Road is currently zoned as Highway Interchange. The NDD is floating zone that provides the commission with a great deal of discretion about various aspects of the project.

    READCO, which has owned the property since 1995, not only built the theater there but a Stop & Shop supermarket, McDonald’s, bank and Stonington Medical Center offices. The movie theater closed in September 2022 when Regal went bankrupt. READCO President Michael Lech said his firm sold its other movie theater locations but held on to the Pawcatuck locations.

    Lech, who lives in Stonington, said Friday that the project will be the first multi-family project along the town’s Route 2 corridor, a type of development he said his firm is passionate about. He pointed out that the site is not adjacent to any existing residential development.

    Lech said his firm is partnering with the Ocean Community YMCA to transform the former theater into a pickleball court facility to address the demand for the fast-growing sport as well as recreational space.

    The 10,000 feet of commercial space would be a combination of retail and office use on the first floor of one of the apartment buildings. He said they would be built along Route 2 to create a traditional streetscape feel.

    Lech said that while there is no demand for theaters or big box stores in the region, there is tremendous pent-up demand for multi-family housing.

    “We’re trying to help out and do our part to address the biggest crisis in southeastern Connecticut,” he said about the demand for housing, especially with the explosion of hiring at Electric Boat.

    “We have a track record in southeastern Connecticut and we want to part of the solution,” he added.

    Lech said his firm spent a great deal of time looking at the architecture in the borough to make sure the apartment buildings have a traditional New England seaport feel. The apartments would be a mix of one- and two-bedroom units priced at market rates.

    As for traffic entering and leaving the site, Lech said vehicles would be spread out through the day and not produce the surge that is seen when movies are beginning and ending. There is a traffic light at the entrance to the site on Route 2 as well as access to Voluntown Road which also has traffic light at Route 2.

    Lech said his firm wants to work with the town and community on the project.

    “We want to make sure it’s done perfectly,” he said.

    Lech said with the $25 million investment there would also be a tremendous tax benefit for the town.

    Lech said the project ties in to READCO’s strategy to invest $154 million in southeastern Connecticut projects over the next two years.

    On Monday, the Architectural Design Review Board will also review another proposed housing project on Route 2, this one a 113-unit affordable housing project with three-bedroom townhouses, planned for the former Rosalini’s nightclub property.

    j.wojtas@theday.com

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