Construction of Coast Guard Museum to Start in Early 2020

The Day

By: Julia Bergman

August 8, 2019

New London — The National Coast Guard Museum project planned for the city's downtown waterfront is expected to enter the first phase of construction early next year.

"With construction documents in hand, we are very excited to announce the start of the next phase of our project and bid out the initial site preparation," Sue Curtin, chair of the National Coast Guard Museum Association's board, announced in late July at a ceremony marking the return of the Coast Guard barque Eagle to New London.

Barring any surprises, the first phase of construction is projected to start in early 2020, she said.

The final design, which was approved by the board earlier this year, features an 80,000-square-foot, five-story, interactive museum that is certified through Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, a widely recognized environmental rating system for "highly efficient and cost-saving buildings." The Eagle, a training vessel for cadets at the Coast Guard Academy and those going through the Officer Candidate School, is expected to be a main feature of the museum and will be docked at City Pier when the ship in New London.

The board recently selected North Stonington-based construction company A/Z Corp. of North Stonington, which it previously had hired as the pre-construction manager for the project, to be construction manager and in that role, the company will manage the bid process for the first phase of construction. A request for proposals is expected to be released on Sept. 1, said Drew Forster, spokesman for the museum association.

No permits relating to construction have been submitted yet. Forster said that since the museum ultimately will be federal property, the Coast Guard is working with the relevant state agencies to determine how that might impact the permitting process and whether permits would need to be filed with federal agencies, as well.

The museum association has raised about $48 million toward the estimated $100 million project thus far. Museum officials have called the $100 million figure a back-of-the-envelope-type estimate, and the board, A/Z Corp. and a third-party estimator are expected to come up with an updated cost projection in the coming months, Forster said.

Of the money raised so far, $20 million came from the state and $10 million is from the federal government. Private donations make up the remaining $18 million. Forster said the museum association is not publicly disclosing its fundraising goals for the remainder of this year and next.

The state's portion of the funding is to be used for a pedestrian bridge to be built in connection with the museum. The second phase of construction will encompass building the bridge.

The museum association also will pay for upgrades needed to City Pier to enable the Eagle to dock there long-term. Costs and details have yet to be determined, as that work will be done later in the process, Forster said. Asked why the Eagle wouldn't dock at the academy, which already has a pier that could accommodate the ship, Forster said that would involve regularly going under the Gold Star Bridge — a complicated process that involves lowering the Eagle's main mast.

Forster said other progress by the museum association includes reaching the halfway point in the exhibit design process, which will outline what artifacts will be in the museum and what stories will be told. That process is expected to take another year and a half, he said.

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