New London Redevelopment Project? What Project?

As we had occasion to observe in the past, the vaunted Fort Trumbull redevelopment project that New London, Connecticut, sold to the Supreme Court in Kelo v. New London, has been something less than a rousing success. See Gideon Kanner, The Public Use Clause: Constitutional Mandate or “Hortatory Fluff,” 33 Pepperdine Law Review 335, 384 (2006), noting that in spite of the $70 million spent on New London’s Fort Trumbull redevelopment project by the city and the State of Connecticut, nothing was happening on the ground. See William Yardley, After Eminent Domain Victory, Disputed Project Goes Nowhere, N.Y. Times, Nov. 21, 2005, at p. A1. Another couple of years have gone by since that news story was published but the Fort Trumbull redevelopment project is still going nowhere.

The November 27, 2007, issue of The Day, the local New London newspaper reports that not only nothing has happened on the ground but also that Corcoran Jamison (CJ), the redeveloper selected by New London to rebuild the Fort Trumbull area where Suzette Kelo’s home once stood, has just missed another deadline, and technically could be declared in default on its contract with New London. Among other things, CJ was supposed to obtain financing for the project no later than Monday, November 26, 2007, but it hasn’t. Instead, it has requested a four to six month extension of time to do so. Elaine Stoll, Fort Trumbull Developer Asks for More Time, Misses Deadline, The Day, Nov. 27, 2007.

And these are the people whose planning, according to the Supreme Court, is well-nigh conclusive and as such a sufficient basis for giving the constitutional term “public use,” a loosey-goosey judicial construction. Thus far, it would appear that judging from the events on the ground, these worthies couldn’t find their own posterior with both hands in broad daylight, much less make “well-nigh conclusive” development plans. Remember that they have been planning this project since 1998 and took these properties in November 2000. So much for those awesome municipal decision-making powers that are beyond the courts’ ability to review.  We note in passing that it took about half that  time to fight and win World War II.

And what about Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant that built a $300 million research facility next to Fort Trumbull and supported the city’s redevelopment effort with money and projections of its future demand for a fancy hotel and other facilities serving its upscale, well-paid worforce? It turns out that Pfizer is having problems of its own. The planned fancy five-star hotel plan had been scrubbed even before the Kelo case reached the Supreme Court. Later, Pfizer suffered market reverses when one of its promising new drugs was disapproved by the FDA, and last time we looked, it was in the process of laying off some 10,000 employees — a process that did not augur well for New London. So much for best laid plans of mice and men and redevelopment agencies, and so much for boosting employment in New London. Remember that New London’s pitch to the Supreme Court had it that the redevelopment project would create 1000 jobs.

We wish we could say that this fiasco is one of those “good enough for government work” efforts. But it doesn’t even rise to that sorry level of accomplishment. We can only hope that Justices of the Supreme Court read the newspapers and that after taking in these reports they are at least ashamed of themselves. Do you suppose? Nah, being a Supreme Court Justice means never having to say you’re sorry.