Once envisioned for commercial development, Fort Trumbull is now filling up with housing

Feb. 3—NEW LONDON — Two decades ago the single- and multi-family houses that once populated the Fort Trumbull peninsula were demolished to make way for commercial development that never came.

But now with the city approving an agreement to sell the last three properties in Fort Trumbull, the state has increased the number of residential units allowed there to 604.

Development on the peninsula, until recently, has long been hindered by restrictions the state's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has placed on the number of residential units.

In 2000, the state and city established a municipal development plan with a flood management certificate approved by DEEP that limited the number of residential units to 84. The certificate was modified in 2011 to allow 104 units.

Mayor Michael Passero on Friday said the city negotiated with DEEP in December and the state modified the certificate to allow a total of 604 multi-family housing units on the peninsula.

Last year the city approved a site plan by Optimus Construction Management to build a 100-unit apartment complex and 100-unit extended stay hotel inside the peninsula.

In January, three properties totaling 6.28 acres were sold to RJ Development + Advisors LLC for $500,001. The company is the same developer building 203 apartments on Howard Street called "The Beam."

What the development company proposes to build on the land remains to be seen.

The sale agreement states the projects on the property will primarily consist of, but will not be limited to, "the construction of residential units to be offered for market rate sale or rent/lease," with the associated parking and other improvements.

The sale to RJ Development completes a 20+ year municipal development plan by the city's development arm, the Renaissance City Development Association, to sell and develop all properties in the area. RCDA, the not-for-profit community development corporation, started buying land on the peninsula in 2000.

Peter Davis, executive director of RCDA, said by email this week that many factors played into choosing RJ Development, the main factor being the positive experience RCDA has had working with the firm on its delivery of The Beam apartments.

According to a development agreement between RCDA and RJ Development, parcels labeled 1A and 3C were sold for $500,000 and parcel 4A was sold for $1.

Davis said the value of all three parcels were established through negotiation, and the driving force of negotiations was the cost of remediating the remaining contamination of soil and groundwater.

In the instance of Parcel 4A, Davis said the remediation costs potentially exceed the land value by a significant amount. He said Parcel 1A has lingering groundwater contamination issues that have yet to be quantified with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The value of Parcel 3C is based on a per acre cost comparable to the sale of other parcels on the peninsula.

Jason Rudnick, principal of the RJ Development, on Thursday said his company is a big supporter and believer in New London and this is part of its continued efforts in the city, commencing with its apartments on Howard Street.

Davis said the RCDA received confirmation from the city's utility department that the current road, sewer, storm water drainage and water systems have the capacity to support the proposed and future level of development on the peninsula.

Since the RCDA has functioned primarily to redevelop the Fort Trumbull district, the question remains about what will become of the city's development arm in the future.

Passero said the city has used RCDA's expertise on projects outside of Fort Trumbull and he anticipates RCDA will have an ongoing role with the city. He said RCDA will be in a transitional period for the next years as it finishes its business in the Fort Trumbull area and moves on to other functions within the development of the city.