The Day – Respler Homes shares vision for former Mystic Oral School property in Groton

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Groton – When Jeffrey Respler, developer of Respler Homes, first saw the Mystic Education Center property, he intended to develop apartments in the Mystic Oral School building.

But when he entered the building, built in different stages and with small classrooms, with “nooks and crannies” and corridors, he realized that it was not designed for a simple conversion. apartment.

After thinking about it, he came up with the idea of ​​creating instead a “New England village” and calling the oral school building “Main Street USA”, with shops on the first floor and upstairs offices, then build apartments on the site. The 40,000 square foot Pratt Building could be renovated with a tax increase and returned to the city for recreation and community use by residents of Groton.

Respler Homes was selected in 2019 as the preferred developer for the state-owned site that the city and state jointly marketed and collaborated on a request for proposal process.

Respler presented his conceptual vision for the property to The Day’s editorial board on Thursday. He stressed that his proposal is conceptual but that he is open to discussions with the city on how best to carry out the project, and he expects the proposal, still in its early stages, to evolve.

The editorial board is to meet with people critical of the project at a later date.

Respler said he designed the community to create a vibrant, “live, work and play” environment for young professionals, as well as empty nesters. He said large employers, such as Electric Boat, were concerned about the lack of housing for the younger generation, while the city wanted more housing for people working in Groton. There are a large number of people who work in the city, but who leave at the end of the day to live and spend their money in other communities.

The project was initially around 750 to 850 units, but is now offered at around 931 units. To address the concerns people raised, mainly about traffic, he said he had purchased additional property for the proposed roadway improvements and was offering executive-style housing on some of the additional lots.

“It’s our best step forward,” he said of the vision, but said it was still conceptual.

The city must first obtain an approved text change for the zoning of the property for any development to be built. This would allow Respler Homes to submit an application, which would then have to go through the city’s approval process, such as interior wetlands and planning and zoning, he said.

He explained that Respler Homes’ intention was never to 931 units or to go bankrupt, and he expects that number may change throughout the process.

But he also explained that, even with the help of progressive fiscal financing, the overall vision of the project requires expensive investments, including roadway improvements, renovation of the oral school and the construction of a parking lot. .

The plan includes features, such as an area where there could be a bandstand for people to listen to music, walking and cycling trails, improvements to a nearby boat launch, a restaurant with patio and electric bike racks for people to take the bikes into in downtown Mystic.

He pointed out that as the density decreases, the facilities offered will also decrease.

While the project was still to be completed in phases, Respler recently said it was open to applying for initial zoning approval only for around 330 residential units and construction before seeking additional approvals.

He said Respler Homes is open to conversations with the city about the project: “However, we have to move forward; that’s what we’re trying to do, ”he said.

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