What is Happening at the Mystic Education Center?
The Mystic Education Center (formerly known as Mystic Oral School) is located at 240 Oral School Road and sits on approximately 77 acres of state-owned property with significant building assets. The property originally housed the Whipple School for the Deaf which moved from Ledyard to this location in 1872. In 1921, the State of Connecticut assumed ownership and supervision of the school. The state discontinued its usage in 1980.
The state continued to use the facility for a wide range of activities by various organizations including the Groton Parks and Recreation Department, Special Olympics, a dance program, a computer business, a day care center, and firefighter training programs. The state notified the Town of Groton in the fall of 2011 that the campus would be closed. The state is seeking to dispose of this excess property for community and economic redevelopment purposes and also to eliminate long term maintenances costs.
The property is comprised of many of the original educational buildings and they remain in solid condition. The property offers redevelopment opportunities as well as plenty of space for new construction. The 77 acres of land features four (4) remaining buildings totaling approximately 175,000 square feet. The Platt Recreation Building is a significant asset offering an Olympic-sized swimming pool, gymnasium, auditorium with two-level seating, bowling lanes, racquetball/squash court, weight room, and other amenities. The main Administration Building is approximately 150,000 square feet in size.
Only the upland portion of the property, approximately 40 of the 77 acres, is suitable for redevelopment. The lower 37-acre portion features substantial topographic slopes and natural resources. This area will be protected as a conservation area and is suitable for passive recreation. Pedestrian trails on site provide access to the Mystic River and an existing boat launch area.
The town was approached as a redevelopment partner to assist in marketing the property for a future sustainable use. Groton’s role involved professional and targeted marketing including advertisements, property showings, a dedicated web page, and public and private outreach. In 2016, the town invested in the completion of a community wide market analysis. This resource contains significant demographic, economic, and real estate data specific to market and consumer demands. In addition, a redevelopment feasibility analysis was completed for the Mystic Education Center. Potential listed redevelopment opportunities included mixed use, restaurants, hotels, higher quality retail, multi-family residential, and more.
Prior to the release of an RFP, the town hosted an open house on June 22, 2017, regarding the Mystic Education Center. This was a way for neighbors, residents, and business owners etc. to learn about the property. Groton staff was on hand to answer questions, discuss project goals, explain the RFP process, and to hear the needs/wants of the community. This open house was well attended and informative.
Groton issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Mystic Education Center in December 2017. It is important to note that this process is more of a redevelopment effort than a real estate transaction. The purpose of an RFP is to attract the best quality use matched with the highest value for Groton’s tax base. While the RFP is the best process to achieve the optimal development of the property, it can be lengthy, spanning several months.
Proposal submittals must be received by 2:30 pm on February 15, 2018, for consideration. All proposals received by the deadline will be reviewed and vetted by a combined Groton/State of Connecticut committee. Short-listed development teams will be invited to engage with the committee. Once interviews are completed, a preferred developer will be selected. Ultimately, several months are required to properly find the preferred development team with which final negations will occur.
Throughout the course of this process, there have been communications with over 50 developers and over 40 property showings. Many have maintained interest which is expected to result in multiple proposals. While we are unaware of what the final development will be on Oral School Road, we are looking forward to facilitating new life for this important property.