The Day – London’s new leaders celebrate state funding for community center

NEW LONDON — City officials gathered near a window of the Fort Trumbull State Park Conference Center on Tuesday to point to the open field that is the future site of the city’s community recreation center.

It is a 7-acre lot that has been vacant for decades and at one time consisted of 24 different parcels, a mix of residences and businesses. Last week, the state announced New London was to receive $1.2 million to assess and remediate the property and to help defray construction costs associated with the $30 million project.

Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz joined city leaders in the boardroom Tuesday to officially announce state funding, part of $17.9 million provided to 13 municipalities through the State Department of Economic and Community Development Brownfield Remediation. The press conference was to be held at the site, but cold winds forced the gathering inside.

“I am so thrilled that the State of Connecticut chose this plot for remediation,” she said. “New London is one of the most densely populated cities in the state, and to have a large piece of empty land, not to have it used by the community is a tragedy.

“A community recreation center is something that is badly needed, and this site is in the middle of what is becoming and will be a very dynamic site for housing, tourism and recreation,” she said. added.

An extended stay hotel and 100 unit apartment complex is being developed on another part of the Fort Trumbull peninsula.

Bysiewicz credited the advocacy of New London Mayor Michael Passero and lawmakers such as State Representative Anthony Nolan, D-New London, for why the project “climbed to the top” of the list of proposals.

The plans for the recreation center are now in the schematic drawing phase, when details such as building layout and program elements are incorporated into usable plans. Once completed, the plans should help firm up project cost estimates.

The city plans to construct a 62,000 square foot building with amenities such as fitness facilities, offices and an eight-lane swimming pool that is expected to attract memberships and event space rentals from across the region. The facility will also be the headquarters of the City’s Leisure Department and New London Youth Affairs and their various programmes.

The developers expected a small amount of contamination in the ground at the site, but reported at the community center working group meeting last week that test drilling had so far only revealed no major problem.

Felix Reyes, director of the city’s Office of Community and Economic Development, said if the planned schedule holds, tender documents for contractors will be ready in April in anticipation of shovels in the ground during the spring.

“I am thrilled to be a part of this. It’s something that’s always been talked about,” City Council member Akil Peck said at Tuesday’s meeting.

Peter Davis, executive director of the city’s development arm – the Renaissance City Development Association – said the state funding will not only benefit the recreation center but also any future development on the site. Plans show that the community recreation center occupies approximately 5 acres of plots labeled 3B and 3C.

“It’s a huge shot in the arm,” he said. “Without this funding, it would have cost the city more money for the community center project. It helps RCDA commercialize what is left of 3C because we don’t have to pass that cost on to a developer.

With foot traffic on the peninsula expected to increase significantly, Davis said it would make sense to develop some type of restaurant or take-out breakfast there.

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Jill E. Washington