CT Construction Digest Tuesday June 23, 2020
New London — The Connecticut Port Authority is seeking a home for two soon-to-be displaced commercial fishermen at State Pier and is considering using $3 million promised by Danish wind giant Ørsted to fund the move.
Mayor Michael Passero says that’s a problem since the money was committed to the city specifically for infrastructure upgrades at the pier at Fort Trumbull that the city now leases to New London Seafood and is home to its own commercial fishing operation.
The $3 million in question, which Ørsted has not yet delivered, was originally committed to New London by Deepwater Wind, a company later bought by Ørsted. Ørsted has agreed to honor Deepwater’s commitment.
Passero said the money was committed to the city while Deepwater Wind was seeking a state investment into offshore wind power through a bid with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority.
David Kooris, the authority's interim chairman, informed the board at its meeting last week that the money could help solve the problem of relocating the commercial fishermen.
Passero said he expects no state involvement in the use of that money.
“It’s not their money. What they’re basically talking about is using that money to solve a problem at State Pier — their problem,” Passero said.
Passero has been frustrated about New London being sidelined from discussions surrounding the $157 million development of State Pier into an offshore wind hub and a lack of a substantial state funding commitment to offset costs of hosting a massive offshore wind facility that does not pay taxes. State Pier is located on land formerly owned by the state and recently transferred to the Connecticut Port Authority.
Tenants at State Pier, including two commercial fishing outfits, are being displaced to make way for the start of construction. Hazardous materials abatement work and dismantling of structures at the site has begun in anticipation of demolition activities.
The fishermen have until July 31 to move out and Passero has previously called on the state to fund their move, offering the city’s waterfront as a possible spot to build docks for the fishing boats.
The fishermen have talked about the possibility of moving to Fort Trumbull but there does not appear to be any ongoing talks.Kooris said the authority last week voted to approve an extension of a contract with AECOM, which is performing permitting and pre-development work at State Pier.
AECOM’s scope of work included “the assessment of multiple locations in the harbor (including the pier at Fort Trumbull) that could be improved to meet the needs of commercial fishermen,” Kooris said in an email.
Once the study is completed, Kooris said, “we can have a conversation of what should get built.”
The Connecticut Port Authority hasn't taken any vote on use of the $3 million, Kooris said, “because it's not ours and we don't control how it's expended.”
The state Department of Economic and Community Development manages the process of ensuring that Orsted meets the commitments made by Deepwater Wind as part of its successful bids to DEEP and its PURA approvals.
“That said, we don't think it makes sense to have independent conversations about how — on the one hand — improvements should be made in NL harbor to benefit commercial fishing with that $3 (million) and — on the other hand — the location where these two fishermen should be relocated,” Kooris said in his email.
“We should have a single conversation about physical enhancements for the benefit of commercial fishing in NL harbor and where these boats end up should certainly be part of that conversation,” he said.
New Britain developer adds 20 downtown apartments
New Britain developer has completed a 20-unit apartment conversion of downtown’s historic Andrews building.
Avner Krohn, owner of Jasko Development LLC, in an interview said his firm recently finished a year-long redevelopment of the upper four floors of the 28,473-square-foot building at 132 Main St.
Krohn declined to disclose the total cost of the “multimillion-dollar” renovation project, which he said was spurred by state historic tax credits. He acquired the property in 2005, and had previously been using the building’s upper floors as office space.
The office-to-apartment conversion adds 20, one-bedroom apartments to New Britain's steadily growing downtown corridor, Krohn said. Several leases have already been signed for a variety of one-bedroom layouts sized 500 square feet to 700 square feet. The first tenants will begin occupancy in early July.
The market-rate units, he estimated, are roughly 20% to 30% cheaper than comparable spaces in Hartford and other nearby towns.
“New Britain can really use market-rate housing downtown,” said Krohn, whose firm has now redeveloped three historic properties downtown. “There is definitely a large demand.”
Krohn said renovation work continues on 6,000 square feet of ground-level and basement commercial space that will be suited for either one large tenant or divided between several. Commercial leases are currently being negotiated with a handful prospective tenants, but Krohn said that process has been slowed due to COVID-19-related hiccups.
“We feel that downtown is lacking and needs additional restaurants and bars,” Krohn said. “With approximately 200 apartments coming on market [downtown] in the next year, we feel that for success, the ground floor retail is going to be essential for people being comfortable living and playing in the same location.”
Krohn said Jasko fully gutted the historic property, built in 1903, but was still able to maintain décor that dates back to the early 1900s. That includes preserving original hardwood flooring and crown molding in hallways. Black and white marble flooring in the atrium, and windows mirroring the building’s original style, was also installed to add features reminiscent of the Prohibition era.
In a statement, Mayor Erin Stewart applauded Jasko's commitment to maintaining and improving historical properties downtown.
“With the opening of Columbus Commons and these new beautiful apartments, close to 100 new housing units have been added to downtown New Britain," Stewart said.
Jasko is wrapping up the New Britain conversion project as it's also looking to build a 111-unit multi-family housing development on vacant Bloomfield land.