The day – The Coast Guard Museum Association organizes a meeting with some downtown businessmen

New London – Strolling with others inside the former Mystic Whaler Cruises building next to Union Station, Phil Michalowski said that although there has been skepticism around the National Coast Guard project Museum due to debut dates not having materialized, it now “feels very, very real, and it will be awesome.”

“Everyone knows this is incredibly important to the economy of downtown and, indeed, the region,” said Michalowski, chairman of the Garde Arts Center board of directors and commissioner for the downtown district. city. He said the museum would be one more reason for people to visit and spend a day, and “from the Guard’s point of view, if there are more people here taking advantage of the space, it provides a another opportunity for customers”.

Michalowski was one of the few people to attend a meeting the National Coast Guard Museum Association held for a few hours on Thursday morning for New London businessmen.

In March, President Joe Biden signed a federal funding bill providing $50 million for the museum. Construction work is expected to start this summer.

Retired Coast Guard Capt. Wes Pulver, president of the association, said that with federal funding moving the museum from a conceptual project to something with a timeline, the association is beginning to reach out. to the community.

“We want to tell the community what this means to them,” he said.

Pulver said the association for the next two and a half years will be a contractor in the former Mystic Whaler building, from where it will direct engineering operations for the museum project.

Tony Suarez, owner of Northern Light Gems on State Street, said “It’s hugely exciting to have this happening” and “It’s going to transform this city. It’s going to literally transform this city.”

Scott Arsenault, whose company operates the water taxi for the Thames River Heritage Park, said there will be initial disruption with the rearrangement of the docks at City Pier but, after that, “we expect a significant number of people are there who are not passing through, they don’t get on a train, they don’t get on a ferry.

While many people objected to the location and design of the museum, Mayor Michael Passero said he only heard the enthusiasm from the downtown business district. He said the area will be a construction zone in the summer of 2023, which will change plans for festivals and events, so the city is working on alternative venues.

Barbara Neff, whose many hats include dockmaster and event planner at Neff Productions, noted that she’s already had to work around different builds each year, whether it’s City Pier or Parade Plaza. Its events this summer include the return of Eat in the Street, the new Pirate Fest and Christmas in July with a parade of illuminated boats.

She said construction workers at the museum will have to eat and drink at downtown businesses.

Pulver said he expects construction of the pedestrian bridge over Water Street to be the biggest disruption, though much of the bridge will be fabricated offsite.

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Andrew B. Reiter