A partner in says the station has been declined as a possible site for a national Coast Guard museum.
The station had been floated as one possible site for locating the museum in New London. Todd O’Donnell said he found out last month that the board of trustees for the National Coast Guard Museum Assocation opted not to pursue a plan to incorporate a 62,000 square foot museum into the station and waterfront.
O’Donnell said he thought the development of the museum would have been a major economic and tourism incentive, but hopes that a similar venture can be developed in its place.
“As long as we have a Coast Guard museum in New London, I’ll be a pretty happy guy,” said O’Donnell.
According to a conceptual plan drawn up by architect Meg Lyons, the Union Station proposal would have incorporated 28,000 square feet of space available in the station and added a modern building with a glass façade onto the northern side of the structure.
O’Donnell said the expansion would have required the relocation of the to the or another nearby site. The plan also called for a bridge over the railroad tracks to another structure on a piece of city-owned property on the Thames River, with an outdoor plaza incorporated into this area.
Other ideas in the plan included real-time broadcasts, visible from the street, of Coast Guard operations; periodic visits by Coast Guard helicopters, which would have been able to land on top of the waterfront portion of the museum; and relocating the Coast Guard Academy’s training ship, the Eagle, from Fort Trumbull to City Pier.
Sandra Chalke, executive director of , said she was disappointed in the decision. She said she thought that establishing the museum at the station would have “revolutionized” the waterfront.
Chalke said the plans took into consideration the historic nature of the station. Henry Hobson Richardson designed the building in 1885, and it was later saved by a preservation effort and placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“I was very pleased with the plans that the architect drew up for the station, and was hoping that the Coast Guard would be excited by them as well,” she said.
opposed the plan, saying the extension of the museum onto land currently leased by the company would as well as the expansion of the ferry service. John P. Wronowski, owner of Cross Sound Ferry, said in a letter to City Center District president George Dowker that he supports a national Coast Guard museum but not as presented for Union Station.
O’Donnell said he requested the plans personally and shared them with members of the City Center District. He said the proposal was still in its conceptual stage and that numerous downtown partners would have been part of a discussion on the proposal if it moved forward.
“To do any of it would have been a huge undertaking with lots to discuss,” he said.
The future of the museum and Union Station
Mayor Daryl Finizio announced in March that the Coast Guard has . Zak Leavy, Finizio's executive assistant, said the office had no update about the status of the museum. He said Finizio is meeting with the association’s board of trustees today.
The has renovated its own campus museum, and an open house will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on May 12. According to , the Coast Guard said the campus museum will not take the place of the national museum and that the National Coast Guard Museum Association is still reviewing possible sites and plans.
Fort Trumbull has also been proposed as a site for the museum. A has suggested that the museum could be incorporated into a development plan for the peninsula.
O’Donnell said one of New London’s major strengths is its waterfront and wealth of transportation services. He said he hopes another major developer will be interested in Union Station, saying a visible attraction could appeal to railroad passengers and spur ancillary development.
“We do want to think big in terms of a project that will be a Connecticut project, not just a New London or southeastern Connecticut project, that will be iconic and attract people to New London,” said O’Donnell.