A New London neighborhood that was the battleground for a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision over private property rights is attracting interest from a potential master developer for an extended-stay hotel, office building and multifamily housing.

Croatan Capital LLC has approached the Renaissance City Development Association about its interest in developing two parcels in the city’s Fort Trumbull neighborhood. Earlier redevelopment plans led to the Kelo vs. New London case, in which the high court upheld public agencies’ right to seize private property for economic development.

The unsolicited proposal includes a 600-space parking garage on parcel 3C and professional and medical office space and a parking garage on parcels 4A/B, according to minutes of the RCDA’s October meeting.

Steve Adams

Vacant parcels within the 35-acre Fort Trumbull redevelopment zone are a reminder of the bitter divisions within this city of 27,000 which, like most of southeastern Connecticut, struggled to retain well-paying jobs amid defense industry cutbacks in the 1990s.

The court battle erupted following enactment of the Fort Trumbull Municipal Development Plan, approved in 2000 for 35 acres of land near the mouth of the Thames River and requiring the acquisition of hundreds of private properties for a large mixed-use project.

Pfizer opened a large research campus just south of the site in 2001, providing an economic boost to the region which had lost thousands of jobs with the closing of the U.S. Navy’s Naval Underwater Warfare Center at Fort Trumbull in 1996.

The Supreme Court in 2005 ruled 5-4 to uphold the New London Development Authority’s eminent domain seizure of seven homes, including that of plaintiff Susette Kelo, after they refused to sell. Pfizer’s departure dealt a blow to attempts to redevelop the surrounding parcels during the Great Recession. Most of the land remains vacant today.

After eight years, Pfizer announced it would vacate the 750,000-square-foot complex just as a series of local tax breaks were set to expire. Some of the former Pfizer buildings have since been occupied by General Dynamics’ Electric Boat division.

RCDA officials declined to comment on the talks, and Croatan Capital could not be reached for comment. The agency’s real estate committee voted to support the concept and move forward with negotiations, The Day newspaper reported. The project could fill a gap in conference center and extended-stay hotel accommodations for contract workers for Electric Boat and government inspectors and auditors, developers said.