Newton, Mass.-based Northland Investment Corp. has expressed interest in the former Norwich Hospital site, which previously was being targeted for development by New York-based Utopia Studios.

The movie studio that a New York developer wanted to build on the former Norwich Hospital site has been nixed, but a new mystery development could be in the works.

Newton, Mass.-based Northland Investment Corp., which has developed some of the key pieces of downtown Hartford’s revitalization, sent a letter several weeks ago to the Board of Selectmen in Preston, the town that contains most of the site, according to company spokesman Chuck Coursey.

“We said, ‘Look, it’s something we’re very interested in,'” he noted.

Coursey said the company sent the letter before the Preston Board of Selectmen terminated an agreement with Utopia on Nov. 22. According to the Associated Press, Preston officials said Utopia failed to meet numerous deadlines, particularly for a payment of more than $56 million.

“The folks in Preston have gone through something of a roller-coaster ride,” Coursey said. He added, however, that Northland’s expertise would help the company carry off a development on that 470-acre site. Northland is waiting and taking the lead from Preston’s selectmen, he said.

While Coursey would not comment on the specifics of Northland’s ideas for the possible development, the company was attracted to the site itself, which is on the banks of the Thames River and still houses some boarded-up buildings that make up Norwich Hospital – a state mental health facility that closed about 10 years ago.

“It’s a beautiful site,” Coursey said.

The site is owned by the state, which had offered it to the town of Preston for $1. That action was stalled after environmental issues were discovered, but, according to documents on the town’s Web site, it was due to take possession of the site early next year. First Selectman Robert Congdon did not return phone calls, so it is unclear what the town plans to do with the site.

Southeastern Connecticut also is home to a lot of ongoing economic growth, Coursey said.

“You’ve got the synergy there with what’s going on in Mystic as well as with the two casinos,” he said. “Whatever happens on that site, it’s something that could work well with [the area’s tourist destinations].”

‘A Real Doer’

Northland Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Larry Gottesdiener is from New London, and the company has spent the last few years developing projects like Hartford 21 – a luxury apartment tower and mixed-use development in downtown Hartford – in Connecticut.

“Larry has rightfully deserved the reputation as a real doer in Connecticut,” Coursey said.

Gottesdiener earlier this year expressed interest in bringing a National Hockey League team to Hartford and building a stadium, but was outbid.

Northland Investment Corp. owns six commercial properties totaling more than 2.5 million square feet in Hartford, including Hartford 21. The company also owns two apartment complexes in the suburbs of Hartford.

Utopia had planned a 12-year, three-phase development that would depend on local, state and federal approvals. The project would have “built on existing regional assets and utilize community input to create a first-class destination resort sensitive to the town’s and the community’s historical integrity and character,” according to Utopia’s proposal.

The key points of the development were the production campus, Utopia Studios, which would have included movie and television soundstages and music recording studios; Utopia Studios Theme Parks, a four-day, all-year and all-weather set of five theme parks similar to Universal Studios; and Utopia School of the Arts, a performing arts college that would have used some of the existing buildings on the site.

In addition, the company was planning 4,200 hotel rooms on the property in family resort hotels. A convention center resort also was a possibility, but would have been developed on the Norwich portion of the property by an independent developer chosen by Utopia.

The land on which the project would have been developed is a 470-acre site located mostly in Preston, but with some of the acreage spilling over into Norwich. Utopia’s chairwoman is actress Cathy Moriarty. Her husband, Joseph Gentile, is the developer’s chief financial officer.

Almost 70 percent of voters turned out last May to weigh in on the question of whether the town should move forward with the Utopia deal, and the referendum passed by a margin of 327 votes. Last year, 60 percent of the small town’s 3,400 eligible residents voted on the project, resulting in a final tally of 1,508 to 256 to allow the town to move ahead with negotiations for a development deal with Utopia.