EAST HADDAM — Town officials expect to hear in mid-March a proposal to redevelop a 2.75-acre property containing the former town office building and the one-time residence of William Goodspeed, as part of an effort to revitalize the area around Goodspeed Opera House.
“The village is bigger than this particular piece of property, but we’re hoping that this will help make a vibrant village,” said William Gerrish, chair of the East Haddam Village Revitalization Committee. “One that brings economic development to the town where there’s pedestrian access and it’s a part of something the entire community can enjoy. I think it’s a very exciting project and a great opportunity.”
The Revitalization Committee is tasked with recommending redevelopment for the town-owned property at 1 and 7 Main Street, on the east bank of the Connecticut River.
In addition to Goodspeed’s residence and the old municipal building, the property has a third existing structure — the River House — that was built around 1911 for the operator of the East Haddam / Haddam Swing Bridge, according to a town document outlining the request for proposals from developers.
According to the document, “The primary objective of the Town is the planned and timely redevelopment of this property in a way that maximizes financial and community benefits and compliments the Town’s historic character. The Town desires for the property to realize its highest and best use and to contribute to East Haddam’s economic development and tax base.”
In June of 2019, the committee recommended The Center Bridge Group — a project of East Haddam architect Jeff Riley founded specifically for this development — as the only qualified applicant to respond, and the developer for the project.
Riley’s firm is now expected to deliver a proposal in mid-March.
“We’re looking for something that will increase the theater experience when we’re in the Goodspeed Landing area,” said Robert Casner, chair of the town’s Economic Development Commission and a member of the Village Revitalization Committee. “I think we need support for the theater patrons. We need shopping for them.”
Casner said that he hoped a development would include shops, inns, restaurants, and connection to the work of the theater.
He added, “I thought a nice use down there would be a practice theater, some place that people could go in when they’re rehearsing that would be open to the public that would let people see the background work before it hits the stage, which I think could give people another experience.”
The town’s request for proposals outlined six goals for the Main Street district of town: maintaining the aesthetic character of the town, supporting mixed-use developments, adding traffic controls and pedestrian access with sidewalks, added parking, access to natural resources, and community engagement for development.
The revitalization committee will review the proposal from March to April, then make a recommendation to the Board of Selectmen, to be followed by a public hearing in May.
Any sale, long term lease, or joint venture for the property would require approval at town meeting and a referendum, which would could happen in May or June.