January 5, 2006

Kelo Update: Maps, New Developer Deal, and Pressuring the Guv

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:09 am

This post contains:

  • Two relevant area maps, one from the New London Development Corporation and another from Google. Given the controversy, I’m surprised that I have yet to see a single map in any article I have seen about it.
  • A long excerpt from a New London Day article about a new deal between the NLDC and the developer, Corcoran Jennison (CJ), which looks like a major makeover, and (to me) has a distinct underlying whiff of desperation.
  • A shorter excerpt from a different Day article about how a lot of parties are irritated with and disagree with Connecticut’s governor because she (gasp) seems to believe that whatever development occurs can and should be done without taking the remaining properties.

If you are currently at the home page, click on “more” below to see all the detail.

I have not been able to associate the former or revised plans for the various Parcels and Buildings described at the NLDC site with the maps that you will see “below the fold.” The reason I would like to do this (or better yet, have someone else who has already done it give me a link to their work!) is to evaluate the reasonableness of the insistence by NDLC, and even some State of Connecticut officials, that the Kelo holdouts’ properties must be torn down for the project to be feasible. Comment below or e-mail me if you can help.
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UPDATE: The Christian Science Monitor has a pretty even-handed piece on the situation, but its alleged picture of Susette Kelo’s house barely looks like there’s a house in it.
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First, it’s time to supply a couple of visuals that have been lacking:

  • The NLDC’s own hard-to-see rendering of the plan, which came from this happy-talk page at the NLDC site. Despite its smallness, it does identify where Pfizer’s new facility is (just below the red arrow):

    NLDC

  • Second, a Google map of the relevant area. The pointer (on East St.) is to one of the 13 property locations involved. At least one other is just to the north on Waltham St. Susette Kelo’s property is also East St. (all obtained from publicly available information):

    Kelo

Next–On December 30, reporting on what must have been a delayed announcement, The New London Day (all Day articles older than one day require registration; articles older than 7 days must be purchased) carried an article about a pre-Christmas agreement between NLDC and CJ.

At the end of the excerpt, you’ll see that NLDC and CJ have a sense of urgency (or is it panic?) about getting the project going (bolded):

City and state officials struck a deal just before Christmas to amend the contract between Boston-based Corcoran Jennison and the New London Development Corp., a move that parties at both levels of government said would jump-start the urban renewal project at Fort Trumbull.

The amended agreement –– reached Dec. 21 after months of negotiations among the NLDC, the state Department of Economic and Community Development, and the developer –– offers the Coast Guard a new, waterfront site for a proposed museum, and represents an aggressive second effort to entice the Coast Guard’s research and development headquarters to move to the former site of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center.

“This is of fundamental importance,” Michael Joplin, the NLDC president, said Thursday in a phone interview. “This was significant, and we worked very hard on it.”

The new agreement, which takes the place of the previously amended contract between Corcoran Jennison and the NLDC, would subdivide a portion of the 90-acre area known as Parcel 1, potentially allowing the museum to sit side-by-side with the luxury hotel that has been the centerpiece of the development plan.

The NLDC and the state also agreed to drop the so-called “cross default” provisions that would have forced Corcoran Jennison to pay $2 million if the developer took over the existing office building, known as Building 2, but failed to build the hotel, whose marketability has been a major point of contention.

In exchange, Corcoran Jennison dropped its exclusive right to redevelop another portion of the former NUWC site, and the NLDC has begun an effort to persuade the federal government’s General Services Administration to consider moving the Coast Guard research and development facilities there from their current home at Avery Point in Groton.

After failing to reach an agreement for a lease of Building 2, the General Services Administration notified Corcoran Jennison this summer that it was no longer seeking proposals for such a move, a decision the NLDC now hopes it can reverse by offering an unencumbered, developable tract in the center of the project area.

“The idea,” said City Manager Richard Brown, who was briefed on the agreement in an e-mail message from Joplin last week, “is that we want to make it as attractive as possible to locate at Fort Trumbull.”

In a final move last Wednesday, Corcoran Jennison officials signed a ground lease for Building 2, and agreed to begin at least $1.4 million in internal and external improvements to the structure to prepare it for marketing. Work could begin, Joplin said, in as little as 60 days.

The new agreement –– none of which directly affects the land that was tied up in a legal challenge over eminent domain –– represents a last-ditch effort over the past several months to save the relationship between Corcoran Jennison and the NLDC, Joplin said, before disagreements over the timing of construction and the elements of the development plan itself pitched the entire project back into court.

….. The result is a dramatic change in the landscape of the project.

Where the current plan called for a hotel surrounded by parking lots on the 9.4 acres of Parcel 1, the new agreement –– pending approval of the subdivision by the Planning and Zoning Commission –– would place the hotel in the northern half of the parcel, and replace the acres of lots with a roughly 400-space parking garage, Joplin said.

And while there is no formal commitment from the museum association, or from the Coast Guard commandant, Adm. Thomas H. Collins, the NLDC and Corcoran Jennison hope the remainder of the parcel will be occupied by a multi-million-dollar Coast Guard museum. Such a facility could serve as a draw for the city and the region and as a boon for the hotel, which has been seen as a potentially risky enterprise since Pfizer Inc. withdrew a guarantee to occupy 100 rooms per night years ago.

Representatives of the museum association refused to comment about the agreement Thursday, and both they and Joplin repeatedly cautioned that no commitments had been made to build in New London.

But Joplin said he had seen models of a possible building for the site, complete with a walkway connecting it to the hotel, and noted that the association and the NLDC were in “very serious discussions” about locating the facility at Fort Trumbull.

“They have said they continue to be interested in locating the Coast Guard museum in the Fort Trumbull/NUWC site,” Joplin said. “I have nothing in writing.”

If the museum is not built here, however, the amended agreement still requires Corcoran Jennison to build the hotel as previously approved.

It was unclear ….. if the latest agreement might provoke renewed challenges from opponents of the project, who have contested not only the use of eminent domain to seize nearby properties, but the environmental appropriateness of such waterfront development.

But after years of occasional tension and dispute, Joplin said the city should know the fate of its uneasy relationship with Corcoran Jennison relatively soon.

“What we’re doing is we’re pushing very hard,” he said, “and if we’re going to succeed at this stuff, we’re going to succeed between now and June.”

My reaction is that there are an awful lot of “ifs” in the project, and that the term “last-ditch” seems quite appropriate. And I wonder — If work doesn’t commence by June, is it over?

Finally, another New London Day article on December 30 notes that pressure on Connecticut’s governor from the city, NLDC, and even state officials to reverse her compromise-without-eviction course is mounting:

City officials continue to grapple with what some see as mixed signals from the administration of Gov. M. Jodi Rell about her support for the redevelopment of the Fort Trumbull neighborhood.

The city’s law director, Thomas J. Londregan, wrote Dec. 19 to Rell’s legal counsel, Kevin J. Rasch, asking the state’s permission to let a Rell-appointed mediator continue trying to persuade the remaining occupants to leave the largely razed neighborhood, where houses and businesses were condemned by the NLDC in 2000. Londregan suggested that it was partly the governor’s failure to exert her influence in the matter that kept the project in “limbo.”

In the letter, Londregan also seemed to directly address the issue that has most nettled other city officials –– Rell’s past statements in which she seemed to suggest that the remaining houses in the neighborhood might be incorporated into the final project, something the NLDC and the governor’s own Department of Economic and Community Development insist will not be permitted to occur.

….. The problem, Brown said, is as much one of public relations as policy, noting that Susette Kelo, the lead plaintiff in the fight against the condemnations, has said publicly that the governor supports her in her fight to keep her house.

“As long as Hartford, i.e. the governor’s office, allows that message to stay out there, and they have not done anything to dissuade those people that that is their intention, it is going to be very difficult to move this project forward,” he said.

I can see why they’re irritated, but too bad. The way I see it, the longer the Governor waits, the more likely it seems that evictions won’t take place.

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1 Comment

  1. Kelo Update:

    Tom Blumer has a thorough update on the stalled the New London project. His summary:

    This post contains:

    Two relevant area maps, one from the New Londo…

    Trackback by The Volokh Conspiracy — January 7, 2006 @ 9:08 am

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