The Labor and Public Employees Committee and Commerce Committee held a joint information hearing on the development of the Norwich State Hospital property.
Representatives from Utopia Studios gave a presentation with artist’s renderings of their proposal. Their proposal is a $500 million project that will take twelve years to complete. Their proposal includes building a hotel and convention center, child center, a City Walk with retail stores, and Hollywood entertainment and arts center. The Hollywood entertainment and arts center would include television and movie studios.
Their facility would also include a theme park and water park. The City Walk portion would be themed “Recreating History and Future” with each portion of the project appropriately themed to a decade. The child’s center would be on the parcel of land south of the Route 2A bridge. They also proposal putting in a Performing Arts school and want to keep some of the old Gothic-style hospital buildings for this purpose along with several houses that are on the state-owned property. The hotel and convention center would be separate from the entertainment and arts center. They propose installing a monorail system so people can go from one part of the complex to the other and plan to build a marina on the beachfront (Thames River) portion and use the rail line that runs through the site.
They explain that their company would have unionized workers and that they are not asking for any subsidies or grants for their project. The project would be a major economic revitalization to the area and has backing from Wall Street and Hollywood.
There are already talented people in the northeast who work in Hollywood that would benefit from this project because these types of jobs would be made available in Connecticut. There would be different high wage employee types.
Utopia has offered to clean up the site without state assistance. Site cleanup must meet DEP regulations and most of the seventy buildings on the former state hospital property would need to be demolished due to their age and disrepair.
They explained discontent in the RFP process and said they have been ready since December to purchase the property and start construction. Municipalities would have right of first refusal but Utopia wants to know whether Preston and Norwich would approve of the project.
The state performed a $175,000 to $250,000 study on the Norwich State Hospital site. This study determined that a retail and entertainment purpose would be the best use of the property.
The Preston Economic Commission explained discontent about the RFP process and want the process to be made easier for developers. The Norwich/New London Building Association is concerned about substandard jobs and says that this project would higher many high-paying jobs. The AFL-CIO backs the Utopia project.
A Preston resident explained that her neighbors continually talk about the hospital property and advocate the Utopia project.
She says that if the state does not make a decision this time around that it will make it more difficult for anyone to be interested in purchasing the site. She said that the developer should submit to Preston’s regulations and that the community is backing the project. She commented that the OPM has a hidden agenda and that all requirements about purchasing the site should be made clear.