STONINGTON — The owners of Seaport Marine sought feedback from the Architecture Design Review Board on Monday on a preliminary proposal for building a boardwalk, hotel, restaurant, apartments, townhouses, a marine services building and a new boat basin on a 11.5-acre site at 2 Washington St. in Mystic, where several dilapidated warehouses now stand.
To go forward, the project will need a zoning change from MC-80, or Marine Commercial, to NDD, Neighborhood Development District, which is a floating zone. The zoning change application will be presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission in late April or early May.
“We intend to redevelop the land, combining commercial and residential with a lot of green, open space,” Meg Lyons, of Stonington, the architect of the project, told the board. Lyons presented simplified plans of the complex to be known as Smiler’s Wharf, after the nickname of Arthur Rowland, a Prohibition-era boat-builder whose vessels were used by rumrunners.
Harry Boardsen and Abbey Holstein, a married couple who manage Noank Shipyard and Seaport Marine, attended the session. Both businesses are owned by the Holstein family, of Stonington.
The couple started the project about seven years ago and completed its first phase with construction of the Red36 restaurant, at 2 Washington St., about five years ago. If approved, the hotel, restaurant, residences and new boat basin would be phased in over the next five years.
Lyons said the concept was to continue Cottrell Street in a southerly direction into the site, where the warehouses now stand, but as a pedestrian walkway rather than a roadway.
Lyons said the warehouses occupy 58,000 square feet. A connecting building, of 12,000 square feet, has been torn down. The proposed buildings would cover 55,000 square feet, or 1.26 acres. The 11.5-acre site contains 7.5 buildable acres and 4 acres of wetlands.
“We are coming in with a very low-density proposal,” she said. “The public space is 20,000 square feet.”
The complex would be required to supply 375 parking spaces and will have 316 spaces on-site and 106 at an off-site commercial property, as yet unspecified, totaling 422 parking spaces. Many of the parking spaces will be located out of sight, on the ground floor of the buildings, according to the plan.
A five-story boutique hotel is planned at the base of Cottrell Street. The complex also includes townhouses, an apartment building and multifamily units. The project does not include affordable housing.
In deciding on the height and volume of the project’s buildings, Lyons said her team looked at other buildings in the area for comparison.
“We were very conscious of making these buildings in scale to the neighborhood,” she said.
For example, the Allen Spool Mill is 60 feet high, the Central Block building is 62 feet high, and the Whaler’s Inn is 40 feet high. The height of the Smiler's Point hotel would be 63 feet. The townhouses would be 38 feet high, and the marine services building would be 47.5 feet. The apartment building, with a height of 74 feet, would be the tallest structure.
“We made a conscious decision to go up instead of occupying more green space,” said William Sweeney, a land-use attorney with Tobin Carberry O'Malley Riley in New London, which represented Boardsen and Holstein.
Lyons also said the project would use materials typical of the surrounding neighborhood, such as brick, wood, clapboard, shingles and asphalt roofs.
“We really took a lot of time thinking about how to make this more than just redeveloping underused land. This is really about place-making, about developing a neighborhood, one that looks and feels like it belongs in Mystic,” she said. “What once was once an industrial, unwelcoming site will now be an open and inviting place to experience the river’s edge. Smiler’s Wharf turns private property into a public asset.”
The project would include an 875-foot public boardwalk that would connect with the boardwalk of Mystic River Park, which is 460 feet long. A public plaza and park would be located in the center of the complex.
Boardsen said a new bulkhead would also shore up the property and will help Mystic in terms of coastal resiliency. The new boat basin will serve the increasing number of boaters who want to stop in Mystic on their way to other ports, Boardsen said.
“We know the waterfront in this configuration will be a very high-performing asset to the town, bringing people to Mystic that aren’t coming in cars,” he said. “We’re already a shoulder stop for people traveling around New England that are going to Newport or Sag Harbor, so we want to accentuate that.”
All of the marine support services located in the warehouses will be moved to Noank Shipyard. Boardsen also said he’s looking into moving boat storage to a 170-acre site on Flanders Road in Groton.
The complex will have a hotel and a restaurant, but no retailers, Boardsen said.
“There’s no retail on the site because retail is for Main Street,” he said. “We know that we don’t want to have stores, that’s for downtown.”
The consensus of the Architecture Design Review Board was positive, overall. Michael McKinley, chairman, said the project would need a landscape architect with experience in urban design.
Sweeney asked for a letter of recommendation from the board to the Planning and Zoning Commission, but McKinley said it was too early in the design process for the board to endorse the project.