New residential proposal for Fort Trumbull in New London

New London — After years of stalled development and an uncertain future for the Fort Trumbull neighborhood, the city and its development association announced Friday that a Pennsylvania company is proposing a 104-unit, $18.4 million residential development on the peninsula.

The Renaissance City Development Association is expected to vote next week on whether to move forward on the proposal submitted this month by A.R. Building Co. It calls for an 80-unit “urban living” apartment building, two 12-unit townhouse buildings with integrated parking garages, a clubhouse with common areas and a fitness room, and an outdoor pool.

RCDA President Linda Mariani called for a special meeting of the RCDA Board of Directors on Friday morning to present the A.R. Building proposal, which she called “very exciting,” to the full board.

“The company desires to acquire the parcels for the purpose of constructing a 104-unit market rate multi-family development,” Hugh Schnip, the RCDA’s broker, told the board in his report. “It is consistent with the RCDA’s goals for redevelopment of the Fort Trumbull area.”

Schnip said his real estate brokerage firm, NAI Elite of West Hartford, researched A.R. Building and “found the company extremely qualified to develop the proposed project.”

After Schnip’s report, the board recessed into a short executive session and later voted to table until Tuesday a resolution to bring the proposal to the City Council’s Economic Development Committee.

The board voted Friday to hold an “electronic meeting” Tuesday and have its members vote on the resolution via email.

After The Day questioned whether an electronic meeting and email voting would be permissible under the Freedom of Information Act, RCDA announced it will instead hold a public meeting of its executive committee at 7 a.m. Tuesday at the Mariani & Reck law office at 83 Broad St. to vote on the resolution.

If the City Council concurs that the A.R. Building development is worth pursuing, the RCDA could enter into exclusive negotiations with the company to reach a development agreement.

“If this is something that proves acceptable to the community, proves acceptable to the RCDA, to the City Council, etc., this is something that could be breaking ground this summer, which I think would be a huge step forward for the city of New London to see a significant development finally move forward at Fort Trumbull,” Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio said. “If this project moves forward, and with (Electric Boat) expanding, I think this could be the catalyst that spurs development down there.”

The development would be situated on the same RCDA-owned parcels that were to be the site of the 103-unit Village on the Thames townhouse-style development, which was first proposed in 2009 but fell apart just days before a planned groundbreaking in 2013. It would be located on roughly 4 acres of land split among parcels 2A, 2B and 2C and would have water views overlooking Coast Guard Station New London and Fort Trumbull State Park. The entire project is on land that was once the Naval Undersea Warfare Center site.

A.R. Building is also requesting first right of refusal to parcel 3B, which the company hopes could be a site of a second project phase consisting of an additional 80 units.

The company first expressed a serious interest in the Fort Trumbull properties in January, Mariani said, and met with RCDA members, Finizio and executives at nearby Electric Boat.

“What attracted us was the growth of New London, the direction the whole city is going in. It’s a dynamic city, and we really wanted to be a part of it,” Jason Kambitsis, A.R. Building’s director of land development, said Friday. “We want to play a major role in the development of Fort Trumbull.”

In 2000, the City Council approved a Municipal Development Plan for Fort Trumbull produced by the New London Development Corp., predecessor of the RCDA. Under the plan, nearly all the buildings in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood were leveled to make way for new multiuse developments.

Some properties were taken by eminent domain and some of the owners fought the takings, which sparked a legal debate that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2005, the court ruled in Kelo v. City of New London that the city had the right to use eminent domain powers to take property for the city’s economic development purposes.

The only development in Fort Trumbull since 2000, when the development plan was approved, is an 88,000-square-foot office building, which was refurbished in 2005 by the Boston development firm Corcoran Jennison. It had previously been part of the federal Naval Undersea Warfare Complex, which was moved to Newport, R.I.

Kambitsis said A.R. Building owns and operates more than 6,000 apartment or townhouse units in 34 communities in seven states. The company not only develops the property and builds the units, but retains control of them as property manager upon completion, he said.

Many of A.R. Building’s properties are concentrated in the Pittsburgh area, but the company also operates properties in Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Louisiana. Though the company is actively seeking to expand throughout New England, the proposed Fort Trumbull development would be its first in Connecticut, Kambitsis said.

A.R. Building has chosen Klewin Construction, the locally based general contractor that has prime developer status for the Parcel J project in New London, to serve as construction manager for all aspects of its Fort Trumbull development.

c.young@theday.com

Twitter: @ColinAYoung

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