Pedestrian bridges, museums, and green energy were some of the ideas suggested for the redevelopment of Fort Trumbull at a public charrette held on Saturday.
The meeting was hosted by the Yale Urban Design Workshop and aimed to hear from the public on what they felt should be put in place at the peninsula. The land was largely cleared following a 2005 decision by the United States Supreme Court that approved the use of eminent domain. On the northern end of the peninsula, the main structures are the , , a , and the Italian Dramatic Club. A developer is planning to on two lots.
Six groups were given scaled maps of Fort Trumbull, as well as cardboard pieces representing structures such as hotels, big box stores, bandshells, and residential and commercial units. Alan Plattus, a professor of architecture at Yale University and director of the Yale Urban Design Workshop, said the plans agreed on by the groups would be photographed and taken into consideration.
“Things really do evolve, so I don’t want anyone to feel constrained by what’s going to happen tomorrow,” said Plattus.
Plattus said that one of the main challenges facing Fort Trumbull is that it is more difficult to get to than downtown New London and is isolated by the railroad and topography. He said cities have had success increasing access to different neighborhoods via connected public spaces, such as the “Emerald Necklace” of parks in Boston. Potential ways to increase the appeal of the area, he said, would include adding a bandshell, museum, mixed use streets, or luxury hotel and conference center.
“People start to look for places where they can go where they can do more than one thing,” said Plattus.
Garon Camassar, a member of the New London Development Corporation, said his group was focusing on a mix of commercial and residential use with an emphasis on the city’s maritime history.
“We’re trying to replicate a historic maritime village; at least, that’s what we’re talking about,” he said.
Merrylyn Weaver said she was attending the workshop as a way of participating in municipal matters.
“I love this city, and too many times we’re not a part of the decision making process,” she said. “We can’t sit back and argue later.”
The exercise was meant to give participants relatively free reign in coming up with ideas, with concerns about zoning and other issues put aside for the moment. The proposals brought forth included the establishment of a dock capable of handling cruise ships; a bandshell on the Fort Trumbull State Park grounds; a village with zero carbon emissions; an arts center; museums showcasing the Coast Guard and sustainable energy; water taxi service to multiple points along the Thames River; a recreational path with workout stations; and a botanical garden.
Tony Silvestri, project manager at and a member of the steering committee addressing Fort Trumbull, said he came up with a plan for the peninsula over a year ago but that it is still evolving. He felt that more discussion was needed on recreational facilities that would be able to draw visitors to Fort Trumbull on a regular basis.
“I’m a firm believer that it all has to happen together,” he said of any potential development.
The City Council approved an effort to get a community consensus on Fort Trumbull plans in April 2010 and held a forum on the topic in July. City Councilor Adam Sprecace said the intervening months have been occupied with gathering information on development that can and cannot take place at Fort Trumbull.