East Lyme purchases former Mobil gas station on Main Street
East Lyme — The town now officially owns the former Mobil gas station property in downtown Niantic, nearly six years after residents approved a proposal to buy the land at 224 Main St.
First Selectman Mark Nickerson announced that the town purchased the property on Wednesday for $550,000 and has qualified for a state brownfield clean-up program for the site.
Town officials envision turning the parcel on Main Street and Pennsylvania Avenue into a park featuring a raised platform with benches and views of Niantic Bay, he said.
They have applied for a state grant to fund the improvements and would place municipal parking on both sides of the platform.
"We think this is the next step in the redevelopment and rebirth of Niantic's Main Street," said Nickerson.
Calling the property "the keystone and welcome mat of our town," Nickerson said East Lyme has expressed interest in the parcel near Niantic Bay for decades.
The 0.3-acre property near Niantic Bay, which was once the train station and later a gas station, most recently housed the Ocean Express Food Store.
In September 2010, residents had approved at a referendum bonding $675,000 for the property, as well as spending an additional $65,000 for environmental studies and potential clean-up of the property.
In February 2011, former First Selectman Paul Formica said the town and property owner were ending talks after they could not agree on clean-up costs and responsibilities related to issues that had been identified in the environmental study, according to news reports at the time.
Over the years talks continued, and an opportunity arose when the property was put up for sale several months ago, said Nickerson.
The owner of the property, Shri Krishna, a limited liability company in Edison, N.J., under Nalin Patel, could not immediately be reached to comment Wednesday.
Nickerson said the $550,000 purchase price — less than the $675,000 approved at referendum — leaves $125,000 to clean up the property, though he expects it will require less than that.
The environmental study, conducted by Weston & Sampson, said radar had detected "magnetic anomalies," indicating there may be an abandoned metal tank on the property.
"We will remediate that section," said Nickerson.
The town has also been accepted into the Abandoned Brownfield Cleanup Program through the state's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and Department of Economic and Community Development.
The program shields the town from liability and qualifies it for environmental clean-up grants.
At the point when the town decides to demolish the building, it would apply for grants to conduct an environmental assessment of the property underneath the building, as well as any clean-up that may be required, said Nickerson.
The town also hopes to receive the state Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant it applied for to create the park area.
The plans include possibly installing a water fountain on the platform and creating an information booth for sites in town.
Sue Kumro, owner of Mermaid Liquors and vice president of the nonprofit organization Niantic Main Street, said the improvements to the property will be beautiful.
She said there had been some fears that condominiums could be installed on the property, blocking water views.
“I think it’s an excellent purchase,” said Kumro. “When you come into Niantic, that’s what you see. When they redo that, it’s going to be a welcome addition to downtown, along with the boardwalk.”
Teri Smith, the owner of Smith's Acres and treasurer for Niantic Main Street, was also thrilled.
"I think it is going to be one more piece of the puzzle that ties everything together downtown," said Smith.
East Lyme Main Street Project (PDF)
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