Sale of Union Station delayed by lack of document

New London — A long-ago failure to issue a certificate showing the completion of the 1975 redevelopment of Union Station is delaying the potential sale of the railroad depot to a third-party investor on behalf of the Coast Guard Museum Association.

But the problem could be cleared up soon, now that Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio has executed the certificate, which signifies that the 1975 project was completed as planned.

The sale is expected to be complete by the end of January, according to Todd O'Donnell, managing partner of Union Station.

O'Donnell told The Day Dec. 11 that "a party affiliated with the CG Museum has executed an agreement to buy Union Station at the end of the year subject to standard closing conditions." The station is adjacent to the future waterfront location of the National Coast Guard Museum.

O'Donnell confirmed Monday that James Coleman Jr., the chairman of the board of directors of the museum association, is the third-party investor executing the agreement.

"Jimmy Coleman's attorney requested a 30-day extension, which we granted them, to address some items in the 1975 HUD Urban Renewal Plan," O'Donnell said. "Hopefully it will be cleared up in the next week or two."

Coleman did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

In a phone interview Monday, Ned Hammond, economic development coordinator for the city, said it appears that a certificate of completion for the station was never issued.

When a certificate is issued to a developer, he said, the expectation is that the developer, not the city or the redevelopment agency, will file the certificate in the city's land records.

In the case of Union Station, which continues to be a working railway station for Amtrak and Shore Line East, the current owners, O'Donnell and Barbara Timken, discovered through a recent title search that no certificate of completion was recorded.

"They have requested the issuance of a Certificate of Completion in order to provide clean title," states a Dec. 9 memo from Hammond to Tammy Daugherty, director of the city's Office of Development & Planning.

In 1975, the New London Redevelopment Agency executed agreements with a group called Union Station Associates, headed by George Notter Jr., for the redevelopment of Union Station, which at the time was part of the Winthrop Urban Renewal Plan. The agreements came after much debate about whether or not to demolish the 19th-century brick building, designed by architect Henry Hobson Richardson, and a successful effort by preservationists to save it.

"So typically what happens is, when everything is done, the redeveloper would request a certificate of completion. That was probably forgotten about, given all the attention to the project," Hammond said, adding that the mishap is not uncommon. Redevelopment projects often involve large agreements with developers over an extended period of time, during which there could be a transition of personnel within redevelopment agencies.

When someone is looking to purchase a property, Hammond said, typically they'll have a title search done to "look for all sorts of items that may not have been completed or released. ... The buyer is going to want a release from any items that are either pending or have been resolved but not recorded as far as releases are concerned."

The City Council voted to dissolvethe New London Redevelopment Agency in 2008, so Hammond recently went to the council at the request of Timken and O'Donnell, he said, "to clear up the title by issuing a certificate of completion."

"It's not unusual. It happens," Hammond said. "We've done it before."

Hammond found that the redevelopment work had been done as promised, and recommended to the council in December that it approve the certificate of completion, which it did by authorizing Finizio to sign off on the certificate. The mayor did so, Hammond said.

Suzanne Simpson, director of special operations for the museum association, said in December that the third-party investor, now identified as Coleman, would own the building, but the association would be able to give input on future use. At this point, there is no clear plan for how the building will be used.

j.bergman@theday.com

Twitter: JuliaSBergman

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