Developers abandon plans for New London's Parcel J, Fort Trumbull

New London — The potential developers of two long-awaited New London projects, a residential proposal for Fort Trumbull and the residential-commercial space at the corner of Bank and Howard streets, have withdrawn, leaving the city welcoming new proposals at year’s end.

Kyle Klewin, the president of Mystic-based Klewin Development, informed the city earlier this month he would not seek an extension to his preferred developer status for the so-called Parcel J property at the corner of Bank and Howard streets.

He cited a soured relationship with would-be development partner A.R. Building Co. as one of the reasons.

A.R. Building, the most recent entity to express interest in development of the Fort Trumbull neighborhood through the Renaissance City Development Association, also has dropped its plans for an $18 million residential development first announced in March.

There has been no new construction in Fort Trumbull since the area became the focus of a national fight over eminent domain.

Former would-be developer Robert Stillman, doing business as River Bank Construction, has a pending lawsuit against the city to recover $83,000 paid in permitting fees. River Bank had proposed a $24 million Village on Thames project.

Karl-Erik Sternlof, the attorney for the RCDA, said A.R. Building Co., “for business reasons of their own,” said it is not interested in pursuing a development agreement. He said a “good-faith deposit” made by A.R. was returned. The company pulled out this summer.

First named preferred developer for the city-owned Parcel J property in 2013, Klewin had at one time proposed a $13 million project that included a grocery store and more than 40 apartments. A development agreement was never finalized.

Klewin said he has invested more than $250,000 in an evolving development plan and most recently had worked with A.R. Building to develop the parcel as a mixed-use commercial and residential property.

Klewin has a pending federal lawsuit against A.R. Building for an alleged breach of contract on a $31 million project the two were working on together in Cumberland, R.I.

Federal court records show a complaint filed in November by a Klewin, doing business as Acme Construction Specialties and Klewin Construction Inc., against Highland Hills Apartments LLC and A.R. Building.

“Klewin therefore could not and would not in any way work with AR on (the Parcel J) project…” Kyle Klewin wrote in a Dec. 1 letter to New London Economic Development Coordinator Ned Hammond.

In addition to the bad blood with A.R., Klewin indicated that to make the Parcel J project financially feasible, plans would need to be further revised to reduce retail space and significantly increase the number of apartments, which in turn would need planning and zoning approval.

“It is our hope that a viable plan can be found for this property, as it would be a significant accomplishment for the revitalization of downtown New London,” Klewin said.

Hammond said the city already has had contact with three “interested parties” who have also talked about mostly residential-heavy development at Parcel J.

The zoning in the area dictates a certain amount of commercial space on the ground level of any new construction.

It is unclear whether the RCDA is working with any new potential developers.

The property, about 90 acres covered by the Fort Trumbull Municipal Development Plan, is being advertised through the brokerage firm NAI Elite of West Hartford.

John Brooks, an RCDA consultant and former development manager for Fort Trumbull, said the common thread in the loss of potential developers through the years has been the economy, which does not make it easy for a developer to invest.

He said a bright spot remains the number of Electric Boat employees in the area.

New London Mayor Michael Passero said he remains optimistic about the amount of interest in properties in the city. He said he foresees a time in the near future when the public and City Council will be weighing in on a new development proposal.

Parcel J is a 3.23-acre property that has stood vacant since the now defunct New London Redevelopment Agency bought the land as part of the Shaw’s Cove portion of a citywide urban renewal plan.

The City Council disbanded the agency in 2008 and now acts as the primary redevelopment authority. Any new development plan needs the council’s approval.

Hammond said a parking lot now covers a 0.73-acre portion of Parcel J and is used by tenants at the adjacent office building on property referred to as Shaw’s Cove 6. The parking lot is being leased, with an option to buy, to the owners of the office building, Shaw’s New London LLC. The owners have until Thursday to exercise their option to buy.

 g.smith@theday.com

Twitter: @SmittyDay

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