ThayerMahan cancels plan to redevelop Groton Heights School
Company will remain at current site in town
Groton — ThayerMahan, a Groton-based marine technology company, no longer plans to redevelop the Groton Heights School property, located in the city near the Bill Memorial Library and Fort Griswold, as its headquarters and research and development center.
The growing company, which is located at 120 Leonard Drive in Groton and has more than 100 employees, was looking for additional space and had planned to redevelop the townowned Groton Heights property.
ThayerMahan Chairman and CEO Michael Connor told the town last week that it is free to offer the Groton Heights property to another party.
In a Feb. 21 letter to Town Manager John Burt, Connor cited three factors for the company’s decision: the environmental clean-up required for the property, an opportunity to buy the space ThayerMahan currently rents on Leonard Drive and expand as other tenants’ leases expire, and not having “the management bandwidth” to redevelop the Groton Heights property “while attending to the needs of our rapidly expanding business.”
A town and city committee had selected ThayerMahan as the preferred developer for the roughly 2-acre former elementary school property, located at 244 Monument St., which has been vacant since 2007. The town approved a letter of intent for the sale and redevelopment of the property in 2019. ThayerMahan said in 2021 that the company hit a lull during the pandemic, but was re-initiating contract negotiations with the town.
Connor wrote in his Feb. 21 letter that the environmental status of the property is unknown.
“We appreciate the many offers we had to provide financial assistance with the mitigation of environmental conditions, but we still feel that the potential liability could have exceeded the resources of our company,” he wrote.
Jon Reiner, the town’s planning and development director, said the Groton Heights School, like many older buildings, faces issues, such as lead, PCBs, asbestos and mold, and also has to be brought up to building and fire codes. As ThayerMahan was doing its due diligence on the property, the company realized the extent of the environmental remediation on the property was more than anyone originally thought.
The town received a brownfield grant from the state Department of Economic and Community Development for the property, but it was not enough to cover clean-up costs, Reiner said. The town looked into applying for another type of grant, but ThayerMahan decided not to move forward, which then prompted the town to ask what the company’s intent was for the property, he said. The town then received the letter from ThayerMahan.
Connor said in his letter that the company’s existing space on Leonard Drive “is ideally suited to the light industrial nature of our business, has room for expansion of ThayerMahan spaces as other tenants’ leases expire, has easy access for trucks and has sufficient room outdoors to test our equipment prior to preparing for operations at sea.”
Connor added that he lives and works in Groton.
“I believe that the best thing for ThayerMahan and the Town of Groton is for ThayerMahan to continue to focus on expanding our company and providing quality employment opportunities in Groton,” he said.
“I’m disappointed that a company of that caliber and of that technology was not able to establish themselves in the City of Groton,” said City of Groton Mayor Keith Hedrick. “They would be a great asset to the city.”
Burt said the most important thing is that ThayerMahan is thriving and continues to grow in the community, as the company is an important part of the town’s future.
“I would have loved to have had ThayerMahan buy Groton Heights, but there will be other uses that come along,” Burt added. “One use that comes to mind is the possibility of apartments to help with the increasing number of employees at Electric Boat.”
The future use of the property has not been decided. Burt said the next step would be to go before the Town Council to discuss how it would like to proceed.
Reiner said the Town Council is working on revising its process for how the town disposes of excess property.
The letter of intent also envisions that the town would help the Bill Memorial Library and ThayerMahan exchange two small land parcels, so Reiner said town staff plans to talk to both the library and the Town Council about what the best next steps would be.