The Day – New London sells slice of Fort Trumbull to developer


New London – As of Wednesday, the city is no longer the sole landowner on the Fort Trumbull peninsula.

Optimus Construction Management has purchased four acres of land where it intends to build 104 residential units and a hotel with extended-stay suites, said Peter Davis, executive director of the Renaissance City Development Association. Last year Optimus agreed to a purchase price of $750,000 for the land – plots 2A, 2B and 2C – under an approved development agreement.

The New Bedford, Mass.-based company is set to launch the first new construction on the peninsula in more than two decades. The property was part of the Naval Underwater Sound Lab and is located off East Street adjacent to the US Coast Guard Station and the Fort Trumbull Riverwalk. The construction schedule is unclear.

Fort Trumbull is an area that was cleared of homes and businesses as part of a plan drawn up by the city and its development arm, New London Development Corporation, the predecessor to the RCDA, in the late 1990s to help to relaunch economic development in association. with the construction of the Pfizer research headquarters. Opposition from a handful of owners refusing to sell led to the landmark 2005 decision in Kelo v. New London of the Supreme Court of the United States. The court ruled in favor of New London and its use of eminent domain to seize the properties. The pink cottage belonging to Susette Kelo, lead plaintiff in the case, was on East Street.

The land has been vacant since Kelo’s house was moved and the other houses were condemned and demolished.

The three parcels purchased by Optimus were not part of the eminent domain process.

Linda Mariani, president of the RCDA, said the time had come for a new development in light of all the new hires at nearby Electric Boat facilities. “I think the taint of eminent domain is perhaps not being felt as harshly as it was a long time ago,” she said. “People just want to see something done now.”

Kathleen Mitchell, a former member of the Coalition to Save Fort Trumbull, was among protesters arrested for attempting to interfere with incoming diggers early in the fight against eminent domain.

“The truth is, Fort Trumbull meant a lot to us back then,” she said. “We fought as hard as we could. We took it to the Supreme Court.

And with the court’s decision, dozens of states passed laws restricting the use of eminent domain.

“But we can’t keep this property empty. We have to do something about it,” Mitchell said. “It’s not a sanctuary.”

While she is not opposed to fee-based development that will ease the tax burden on residents, Mitchell said she is against city plans to build a $30 million community center in Fort Trumbull. The facility, she said, will occupy land that could generate taxes.

Bill Von Winkle, who owned several properties in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood and was a plaintiff in the Kelo case, praised the RCDA for its recent progress. “They do a hell of a job. It took a long, long time,” he said. “It’s time to try to build something to roll the taxes.

Von Winkle said he only gave up his properties in 2006, after the Supreme Court case, and still thinks the compensation he received was not enough. “They treated us like we just had to step aside,” he said of the NLDC. “It’s a different town now.”

He showed his support for the RCDA with a banner hanging from one of his rental properties at 225 Shaw Street. It reads “Thank you Peter Davis and the RCDA crew for making it happen!”

The bulk of the proceeds from the sale of the property, $400,000, will support the $600,000 settlement agreement with Westport-based Riverbank Construction. This settlement was reached in 2019 after three years of legal wrangling that froze development opportunities on the land.

The long-pending lawsuit, filed by the father and son team of Robert and Irwin Stillman in 2016, claimed breach of contract over their stalled plans for a 104-unit residential development called Village on The Thames on four plots in Ft. Trumbull.

Riverbank had a development agreement with the NLDC, but it was found to have breached its agreement on the terms of the project financing. Riverbank argued that it spent more than $2 million developing its plans, local permits and approvals.

A Riverbank representative was not immediately available to comment on this report.

New London Mayor Michael Passero informed the City Council of the sale in an email on Wednesday.

“I would like to express my deepest gratitude and congratulations to the City Development Corporation, RCDA, and its director, Peter Davis, for working diligently to finalize the settlement with Riverbank and for their persistent efforts to realize the vision. to redevelop Fort Trumbull (Peninsula),” he said. “It will be exciting to see the Optimist Project make history as the first commercial development on Fort Trumbull (Peninsula) since efforts to redevelopment over 22 years ago.

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Editor’s note: This version clarifies that the three parcels that were sold were not part of the eminent domain process.

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