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    Sunday, July 21, 2024

    Developer plans to transform former New London church and sail business into apartments

    The former Apostolic Cathedral of Hope on Green Street in New London, shown here on June 12, 2024, is slated, along with a nearby sail making business, to be transformed into an apartment complex. (John Penney/The Day)
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    The Farrar Sails business on Union Street in New London, shown here on June 12, 2024, is slated, along with a nearby former church, to be transformed into an apartment building. (John Penney/The Day)
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    New London ― A national investment firm with ties to several downtown development projects is looking to transform two properties – including a long-vacant church – into apartments that would welcome tenants next year.

    Parker Benjamin, a company that specializes in real estate development and investment banking, has expressed a “financial commitment” to working with the city to redevelop properties at 157 Green and 6 Union streets into a total of 29 residential units, according to documents slated to be reviewed next week by the City Council.

    The company purchased the Green Street property, home to the former Apostolic Cathedral of Hope, in April for $315,000 from businessman Rod Cornish. Parker Benjamin plans to rename the building “Tilley Corners,” project documents show.

    Cornish, owner of the former Hot Rod Cafe on Bank Street, bought the church property in 2022 with the goal of turning the building into an events venue. That plan never materialized, though a sign fronting the church still advertises the “Stone Temple Venue” coming in 2023.

    Parker Benjamin is in the process of finalizing the purchase of the Union Street Monte Cristo building, located less than 500 feet from the former church. The building has been owned by a sail making company, Farrar Sails, Inc., since 1998. The sail company’s owner did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    Brian Lyman, managing broker of real estate services for Parker Benjamin, on Wednesday said his firm is in the process of garnering historic adaptive re-use approvals for both properties from state and national preservation agencies.

    Lyman said architectural designs for the properties are being drawn up, though local zoning and building permits are still required.

    “The plan is to go out to construction in 90 days with a year-long build planned for each property,” Lyman said. “We’re looking to begin leasing next summer.”

    Parker Benjamin lists several New London projects – both completed and ongoing – on its resume of revitalization jobs, including the restoration of the Manwaring building on State Street into Connecticut College student housing; the plan to create a mixed-use luxury apartment/retail complex on Bank Street; and the proposed refurbishment of a former silk mill on Garfield Avenue into market-rate apartments.

    The council is scheduled on Monday to discuss and possibly act on a resolution authorizing Mayor Michael Passero to apply for an upcoming round of state Community Investment Fund Program grants to help fund the re-use of the two properties.

    Felix Reyes, the city’s director of development and planning, said the application, which can only be submitted by a municipality or a nonprofit organization, seeks $950,000 in state grant funding.

    The award requires a 25% match by Parker Benjamin.

    “We’ll be putting in substantially more than that in each property,” said Lyman, adding his firm and the city began discussing the plans last year.

    In its grant application, Parker Benjamin states 20% of the planned apartments will be reserved for affordable housing.

    “These projects align with the ongoing downtown New London revitalization efforts and will contribute to the economic growth and vibrancy of the downtown area,” Parker Benjamin said in a project statement. “The projects will attract more residents to the heart of the city leading to increased foot traffic and support for local businesses.”

    j.penney@theday.com

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