What do you do with a dead redevelopment project? Like the one in New London, Connecticut, the one that gave us the wretched Kelo case? In case you are a Martian, dear reader, and don’t know what we are talking about, here is a quick summary. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court approved New London’s taking of the homes of Suzette Kelo and her neighbors, in order to turn their sites over to a New England developer who planned to build upscale shops and condos intended to cater to the needs and wants of the well-paid employees of the nearby Pfizer pharmaceuticals research lab. But it turned out that the city’s plans that enabled it to carry the day before the court weren’t worth the paper they were written on. The redeveloper couldn’t even get financing – and that was before the crash. And Pfizer? Oh, that. It recently announced that it is shutting down its New London facility and moving out of town, taking some 1400 jobs with it.
So the 90-acre site of the misbegotten Fort Trumbull redevelopment project has been just sitting there, increasingly looking like a trash-strewn wasteland. And “waste” is the operative word here because the creation of this fiasco cost the taxpayers somewhere around $80 to $100+ million.
Now, in a noteworthy gesture of optimism, The Day, New London’s newspaper, reports that Michael Buscetto, III, a plucky local developer wants to use some of that wasteland to construct “retail space where sports related businesses could set up, including a T-shirt store, print shop and photography studio. A physical therapy group and other health related offices would also fit in. . .” (Kathleen Edgecomb, Buscetto Proposes Sports Complex for Fort Trumbull, The Day, Dec. 12, 2009). Mr. Buscetto is quoted as saying that after his plans are in place, he will see what the cost will be, and then he will seek financing.
We wish him well, and we would cheer for him and his plans if we were assured that he means to invest and put at risk his own money – something the Day article does not make clear. But since your faithful servant is a sucker for clear-eyed entrepreneurship, we offer our best wishes for success of this venture. In the immortal words of that World War II joke punchline: Rots of ruck.