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The last project by Smiler’s Wharf developer ended in foreclosure

May 25, 2019

The last project in Stonington by John Holsten, a principal in the enormous Smiler’s Wharf project being proposed for downtown Mystic, ended in foreclosure, with lenders taking ownership of the site, the former Mystic Color Lab property off Masons Island Road, which remains undeveloped today.

When I went to learn more about the failed 2.9 million from People’s Bank, both the principal and 398,213 in what it said were unpaid fees.

Another large creditor was Fuss & O’Neill Design Build Services, which had an attachment of 28 million, was never completed because Holstein refused to personally guarantee the full amount, according to the lawsuit.

That lack of continuing funding brought the project to a halt, the plaintiffs say in the lawsuit.

Now, he’s asking for state help for his latest project in a $10 million bond. The first phase the developers propose would include the site work funded by the state and then construction of a new restaurant twice the size of the existing 100-seat Red 36 on the property.

Without the change of zoning being sought, that new restaurant would not be allowed.

Will one of Stonington’s only large remaining shipyards be lost to a project that is never finished?

Do residents really want to change the zoning to discontinue a marine use that has existed there for 150 years, starting with the building of seafaring sailing ships, for a project aimed at selling pork sliders and liquor to tourists?

Are there engineering studies to support the claim that a new bulkhead, part of site work for the hotel, restaurant and seven-story apartment tower, would help and not harm the nearby neighborhood with flood resilience?

Is there evidence the new hardening of the riverfront wouldn’t push rising floodwater away from the absorbent wetlands at the rim of the Seaport Marine property and drive it instead farther downtown?

These are questions residents should demand answers to Tuesday, at the public hearing on this landmark zone change request, scheduled for 7 p.m. at Mystic Middle School.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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