Published June 24. 2014 2:36PM Updated June 24. 2014 11:57PM
New London — The developer who placed the only bid for the historic Lighthouse Inn property hopes to restore the inn as a venue for weddings, special events and corporate conventions.
Anthony D. Acri III, a New Haven businessman, told the City Council’s Economic Development Committee on Monday that he would renovate the first floor of the inn — including the kitchen, restaurant and bar — and at least one section of hotel rooms within 180 days of the sale of the property.
Acri said he wants to restore the inn, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, to its former glory by updating it and making it a more modern facility without sacrificing the historic charm of the building.
“We would take the money necessary, the time necessary to bring back the historic Lighthouse ... to bring people back, tourists back, to New London, bring in revenue for New London, taxes for New London,” Acri said. “New London is a beautiful town, but I see where it can use a little bit of revitalization, it can use a little bit of ‘oomph,’ it can use a little bit of pizazz.”
Acri noted that the 1902 inn, which has been vacant since 2008, needs substantial construction work — roughly $2 million worth, he estimated — before it could be opened, including black mold abatement and roof repairs.
“We realize that there is a lot of money that has to be put into this operation and also realize that we’re not going to get into this and make money for some time,” Acri said.
Acri was joined Monday by the cadre for his Lighthouse Inn plan, each of whom specializes in one aspect of the business plan, from historic restoration to food distribution. At the end of the presentation, one of the specialists handed out jars of spaghetti sauce packaged by Onofrio’s Ultimate Foods, a food distribution company in New Haven that would be involved in Acri’s business.
Most of the questions from councilors focused not on Acri’s business plan but rather on his bid for the property, which the city owns.
Acri’s offer of $100,000 is far short of the $500,000 minimum set by the city at the start of the bidding process.
“Should this council opt to approve that (bid), I worry about the legitimacy of the process and the fairness of it, that others may not have had the opportunity to perhaps offer more even though it was below the $500,000 threshold,” Councilor Martin T. Olsen said.
Acri said he followed the process of submitting questions and getting answers from the city. All qualified bidders received a response from the city that any and all bids would be documented and reviewed, though the council reserved the right to reject any bid under $500,000.
Acri had bid $1.25 million for the Lighthouse Inn at auction in 2010 but withdrew his offer a few months later after a series of break-ins at the property resulted in significant damages and the loss of personal property.
“You talked about the confidence you had about getting the facility back in (2010). Compared to now, your bid is quite different. Where did your confidence go?” Councilor Anthony Nolan asked.
Acri said that he is just as confident now as he was in 2010 that he can operate a successful business, but that he will need to put almost double the money into fixing the inn up than he would have four years ago.
In addition to restoring the inn portion of the property, Acri’s proposal includes plans to expand the small, former spa building into a “wellness center” that would provide hair, nail and makeup services for brides as well as “life coaching, crystal healing chakra balancing, reflexology, massage therapy yoga and a metaphysical gift shop,” Acri wrote in his proposal.
His proposal also includes plans to demolish the inn’s carriage house, formerly used for lodging, to make room for an expanded parking lot.
The committee took no formal action on Acri’s bid Monday. It will ultimately be up to the full City Council to accept or reject it.