Stonington — The Stonington Historical Society has announced that it will begin the first phase of its $2.75 million renovation and expansion of the Old Lighthouse Museum later this month.
A groundbreaking, which is open to the public, has been scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 26, at 11 a.m.
Josh Adams, the historical society’s director of development and communications, said Tuesday that the project will be divided into two phases.
Phase 1, which will begin this month, involves work inside the museum, such as installing an HVAC system to create a climate-controlled environment to better preserve artifacts, repair structural damage caused by insects and water, refinish floors, install new electrical wiring and repaint exterior masonry work.
Currently, historical society volunteers are packing and removing artifacts for storage at an off-site location during the work.
The cost of Phase 1 is $1.3 million and the work is expected to be completed next spring, at which time the museum will reopen to the public.
At that time, visitors will see two new exhibits, one on the work of famed local photographer Rollie McKenna, who died in 2003. Her work ranged from portraits of literary giants such as Dylan Thomas, T.S. Eliot and Robert Frost, to snapshots of everyday life in the borough and its residents.
The other exhibit features Venture Smith (1729-1805) who worked his way out of slavery on farms in Stonington and became a successful entrepreneuer in colonial southeastern Connecticut. The society has received a grant for the latter exhibit.
Phase 2, which will consist of a 500-square-foot addition to the rear of the museum to house a handicapped-accessible bathroom and ticketing area, will begin after Phase 1 is complete. Adams said the society is continuing to raise money to fund Phase 2.
In a statement announcing the groundbreaking, historical society board President Michael Schefers said the “renewal of the lighthouse will help guarantee this important piece of local history will have a future.”
“It’s time to undertake the rebuilding of the lighthouse to ensure it enjoys a long life,” he said.
The lighthouse was built in 1840 and purchased in 1925 by the Stonington Historical Society for use as a museum. It was the first lighthouse in America to be converted to a museum and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It attracts 6,000 visitors a year.
Oudens Ello Architecture of Boston designed the project. The construction firm is the Consigli company, which has offices across the Northeast including in Hartford and Boston. Consigli has worked on numerous high-profile landmark restorations, including the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, the Maine State House and the Smithsonian Institution’s Renwick Gallery.
In 2017, after four years and four revisions, and despite repeated opposition from some neighbors, the borough Planning and Zoning Commission approved the addition, which was scaled back from earlier designs. Some residents criticized the size of and rationale for the addition, landscaping, additional traffic and the society's holding of special events, such as weddings, on the scenic waterfront property adjacent to Stonington Point.
Goodwin College breaks ground on $8M commercial building
Goodwin College has broken ground on a 25,000-square-foot, $8 million commercial building that aims to help revitalize the East Hartford school’s South Main Street campus area.
The building on Main and Ensign streets will be used as a mixed-use commercial building and not for academic purposes, Goodwin spokesman Philip Moore said.
Goodwin so far has secured one committed tenant, East Hartford-based American Eagle Financial Credit Union, Moore said. The school is also looking for at least one restaurant to set up shop in the complex, Moore said, preferably one that would be a venue for business lunches.
"This project will be a springboard,” Goodwin College President Mark Scheinberg said in a statement. “The south end of East Hartford is ripe for this type of development. It will keep people -- and their purchasing -- in town. If we do this right, this area will become a true destination.”
Lamont takes the city mayors’ calls. What will he deliver?
Waterbury — Neil M. O’Leary, a mayor coping with his city’s legacy of deindustrialization, guided Gov. Ned Lamont through a 17-acre industrial fixer-upper with the optimistic patter of a developer. He urged the governor to look past the weeds and graffiti-tagged bricks and see potential.
Lamont peered into the dim emptiness of an abandoned 200,000 square-foot factory, a building with good bones and high ceilings that O’Leary says will save it from the demolition crews that are slowly creating clean slates from brown fields for the next act in what once was America’s Brass City.
With $3 million awarded by the administration of Lamont’s predecessor, the city has been clearing the site, once home to a metal hose company, Anamet. At least another $2 million is needed to finish. O’Leary told the governor about another abandoned factory, one reclaimed and back on the tax rolls, providing jobs.
“One of our primary partners is and has always been for the last seven and a half years the state of Connecticut,” O’Leary told Lamont after they moved on to a food-processing facility under construction nearby, soon to become a neighborhood source of jobs and food. “But we have the results to show for the work.”
Urban leaders like O’Leary, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin and Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton say they are encouraged by the governor’s accessibility, his early interest in urban issues and his repeated assertion that cities are key to the economy. But the test will be seeing those sentiments turn into concrete action.
It is unclear who in the administration is responsible for urban policy. Lamont hesitated when asked to name his administration’s point person, mentioning his budget director, his chief operating officer and himself before settling on an answer outside his administration.
“I spend a lot of time talking to mayors. I spend a lot of time talking to Neil O’Leary. I spend a lot of time talking to Luke Bronin,” Lamont said. “That’s where I get my feedback. I think our point people are the mayors themselves.”
“In that sense, he has been excellent to deal with,” said Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, a Republican and former state legislator who sought the GOP nomination for governor in the last three election cycles. “They are feeling their way, post the first session.”
Money has not yet followed the conversations, however.
The legislature’s Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee recommended $30 million in bonding for brownfield remediation in the fiscal year that began July 1, but governor has refused to move forward on a bond package.
The administration recently convened a working group on transit-oriented development in Fairfield County, and Lamont signed a bill that effectively makes federally designated opportunity zones, most of which are urban, a priority for state assistance.
“We are going to need to focus our resources on these areas,” said David Lehman, the governor’s economic adviser and his commissioner of economic and community development. Lehman has been working to recast the state’s economic aid programs away from corporate grants and toward investment in infrastructure.
Lehman said he sees the administration’s urban policy taking shape through a focus on opportunity zones, transit-oriented development and brownfield remediation.
Last week, Lamont told a legislative panel aimed at retaining young workers that Amazon is typical of what new-economy companies are demanding.
“We want cities that are alive,” said Lamont, repeating what he heard from Amazon. “They don’t have to be big cities, but we want cities that are alive. Cities that are alive with activities on the street. Cities that are walkable. Cities that are part of a major transportation hub.”
Infosys, a tech company, has opened a regional hub in downtown Hartford to serve its customers in insurance, health and advanced manufacturing, and Stanley Black & Decker is sponsoring a downtown manufacturing “accelerator,” a program run with Techstars that mentors and helps find funding for startups from around the world.
Waterbury, Danbury, East Hartford, Hartford and Middletown each were given $450,000 grants.
In Waterbury, where the grant was more than doubled by private philanthropy, the focus is on census tract 3505. It is home to 2,439 people, more than three-quarters Hispanic and many foreign-born. Unemployment is 23%, four times the city’s jobless rate.
Victor Lopez Jr., the executive director of the Hispanic Coalition of Greater Waterbury, told Lamont that some of the Working Cities grant is being used to provide English classes in the neighborhood, to be followed by training as certified nurses’ assistants.
They stopped outside a 6,000 square-foot food-processing facility under construction on a former brownfield site. It will be home to Brass City Harvest, a non-profit that helps small farms meet inspection standards necessary to sell to grocery chains.
“The majority of people who will work here will walk here,” O’Leary said.
The project is being built with help from city, state and federal agencies.
“We are not afraid to put our skin in the game, governor,” O’Leary responded.
The city now collects annual rents of $1 million on a factory complex it redeveloped in the North End, O’Leary said.
Smith said, “One of the good things about this is there is a demonstrable return on investment. You want to know what good did the money do.”