New London's Union Station sale takes step forward

New London - The City Council late Monday afternoon helped clear the way for a sale of the landmark Union Station railroad depot by releasing the property from a decades-old urban renewal plan and agreeing to an updated set of terms.

The council voted to enter into an agreement with the train depot's owners that will clear up issues with the property's title and will help facilitate a smooth transaction when the building is eventually sold.

The City Council called the special meeting for Monday afternoon at the request of Todd O'Donnell, managing partner of Union Station, according to documents provided with the meeting agenda.

In a letter last week, O'Donnell told Office of Development and Planning Director Tammy Daugherty that the council's actions would eliminate some "questions or concerns which would inhibit or delay future development of Union Station."

The council's vote Monday allows current owners O'Donnell and Barbara Timken to move forward in selling Union Station to a third-party investor buying the building on behalf of the Coast Guard Museum Association.

O'Donnell last month told The Day 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.

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

"The train station is an integral component to this project," said Richard Grahn, a lawyer representing the prospective buyer and secretary of the museum association.

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.

"What the request is this evening is to basically allow us to confirm the expiration of the urban renewal plan and the expiration of the land contract," Grahn said, "and instead to allow us to focus moving forward with respect to the zoning regulations so that the (Planning and Zoning Commission) issues that any developer has to deal with becomes the road map for future development."

The new agreement contains conditions related to the architectural preservation of the Henry Hobson Richardson-designed station and allows successive owners to continue to use the building as a train station, though it does not require them to.

The City Council voted 6-0 Monday to approve the new agreement. Councilor Michael Passero was absent from the special meeting.

The transaction is expected to be complete by the end of the month, according to O'Donnell.

c.young@theday.com

Twitter: @ColinAYoung

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