By Jesse Leavenworth – Originally published in the Hartford Courant: LINK.
EAST HARTFORD — The town of East Hartford will seek a state grant to help Goodwin University build a marina on the Connecticut River, part of a sprawling multi-phase development plan that also includes a riverfront hotel and restaurant, student housing and green space.
The $2 million grant is from the state Department of Economic and Community Development. The town and university would cover the remainder of the total $4 million cost for the 32-slip marina.
The town is working with Goodwin to fund infrastructure improvements needed for the marina, including moving utilities underground, conversion of street lights to LED and expanded access to multi-use trails.
The marina would provide facilities for people of all abilities to kayak, canoe and enjoy other activities, town officials say. The project is a good fit for the state grant, officials say, because the state emphasizes public/private partnerships and the planned development already has local, state and federal permits.
“Finally, the project location makes a natural linkage for the development plans at Rentschler Field,” according to town documents.
Pratt & Whitney recently sold the 300-acre former airfield to Massachusetts-based National Development, which has not announced plans for the property.
Pieces of Goodwin’s campus development already completed include a commercial/retail building at Main and Ensign streets that opened in May. Rebel Dog Coffee and American Eagle Financial Credit Union are tenants. Completed last year was a $10.5 million, 14,700- square-foot addition to the manufacturing annex at Connecticut River Academy, a magnet high school and one of three campus magnet schools the college runs with the state.
The state, which spent about $130 million to build the schools, funded most of the cost of the manufacturing center addition, Goodwin officials have said. The extra space is meant to expand high-tech manufacturing training, serving academy students and area school districts, officials said.
Still in the concept stage is a riverfront hotel with one or two restaurants on the site of a vacant restaurant at 125 Riverside Drive. The hospitality industry, however, has been hurting due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Todd Andrews, Goodwin’s senior vice president for economic and strategic development, said Monday.
“We’re still entertaining requests,” Andrews said of the potential development. “The problem is that whole industry has slowed down significantly.”
Also planned is a residential/retail building that would include student apartments. Andrews said university officials are talking with prospective developers and expect to announce plans within the next few months. The campus neighborhood now includes nothing larger than four-unit housing. Almost all Goodwin students are commuters and Connecticut residents, but officials say on-campus housing would attract students from farther away. The building also was to include market-rate and above-market-rate apartments.
Finally, a $4 million project designed to improve campus drainage continues. The work started at the Connecticut River outfall at 125 Riverside Drive, and work along Ensign Street to Main Street was completed in the summer, Andrews said. Work in the King Court/Crosby Street area is set for spring or summer of 2022, he said. The project complements ongoing state drainage improvements along Route 2.
Since 2009, when the current campus was built on the site of an abandoned oil storage yard, the private, nonprofit institution has been buying houses and land between Main Street and Riverside Drive. Andrews and university President Mark Scheinberg have said the ongoing development is meant to benefit students and East Hartford residents and to attract visitors. The plans proceed from a community-based outlook, they said.