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Bond Commission approves $10 million for Norwich Hospital cleanup

Hartford — Calling it an investment in a project that will bring “jobs, jobs, jobs” to southeastern Connecticut, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy heralded Wednesday's unanimous approval by the state Bond Commission of the final $10 million needed to finish the cleanup of the former Norwich Hospital property in Preston on the eve of a proposed $200 million to $600 million development plan by the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority.

Town and tribal leaders are in the final stages of negotiations for a Property Disposition and Development Agreement for the 393-acre property in Preston. Proposed development described in a conceptual plan includes a 40-acre theme park, indoor water park, hotels, large sports training complex, senior housing, time share units and outdoor recreation facilities.

“I cannot stress enough what this project is about,” Malloy said during a news conference following the Bond Commission meeting. “It's about jobs, jobs, jobs, development and tax base. The redevelopment of the Norwich Hospital property with the plan in place the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority has committed to is going to be a job creator for the southeastern Connecticut region of the state. It will double the tax base of the community.”

The final cleanup, including demolishing the remaining nine buildings and cleaning contaminated soil surrounding the buildings, is expected to take about a year, Preston Redevelopment Agency Chairman Sean Nugent said. Cleanup work is expected to begin in the second half of 2017 after completion of a remedial action plan, Nugent said.

Malloy credited First Selectman Robert Congdon, Mohegan Tribal Council Chairman Kevin Brown and the work of the PRA for the eight-year cleanup effort to prepare the former hospital property for redevelopment.

With Wednesday's Bond Commission grant, the town has secured more than $25 million in state, federal and matching local funds for the hospital cleanup effort.

"By making these investments, we are ensuring that properties like this are no longer a drain on local resources, but rather add value and boost local economies," Malloy said.

Malloy said he has enjoyed “trudging through the property” with town officials and said the Norwich Hospital cleanup is the “largest and most notable example” of his administration's $180 million investment in brownfields cleanup projects over the past six years.

Turning to Congdon and members of the PRA in the audience, Malloy said that the state allocation to complete the cleanup comes as Congdon is preparing to retire after 22 years as first selectman.

"This is it," Malloy joked. "So basically, I'm doing this $10 million to get rid of you."

c.bessette@theday.com

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