Police substation planned for Gold Star Highway apartment complex

Apr. 3—GROTON — The town's police department plans to open a substation at a former hotel being converted into apartments on Gold Star Highway.

The Town Council on Tuesday unanimously gave approval for the town to sign a lease with 99 Gold Star Highway Owner LLC, owned by New York-based company GoodHomes Communities, for the substation.

The rent for the 1,366-square-foot substation is $100 a year, plus costs for utility use, according to the lease, which has an initial term of 10 years that can be renewed.

Police Chief Louis J. Fusaro Jr. said in a phone interview Wednesday that GoodHomes Communities, the company converting the former Groton Inn & Suites at 99 Gold Star Highway into 115 apartments, approached the police department with the possibility of placing a police substation there.

Fusaro said he thinks the substation will benefit the residents there and the community, and the police department was open to the idea.

Fusaro said the Gold Star Highway substation will allow police to be more present and visible in the community, as part of the department's community policing approach. It will help make the department more accessible and available to meet with people in the community on their terms.

In addition, the police presence can also serve as a deterrent to crime, he said.

Fusaro said the substation is not intended to replace the police station. If someone is arrested, they will be processed at the police station.

But police can use the substation to file a report, take a lunch break, or meet someone reporting a crime or who wants to talk about a sensitive matter, he said. Rather than having to go back to the police station, officers can remain a "stone's throw away," if a call for service comes in for that area.

Fusaro said the idea is to eventually establish regular community policing office hours at the substation, which will be set up as a room within the building, with an external entrance and parking spaces.

He said the substation will be located in a part of town that has commercial and retail establishments, and restaurants, as well as hotels, with a population that comes in and out of Groton. It also will serve an area not far from the U.S. Naval Submarine Base and residential neighborhoods.

Fusaro said the police department already has a substation in Mystic, and Community Policing Officers meet with residents at the Thrive 55+ Active Living Center from 10 a.m. to noon on Tuesday and Thursday. The community outreach specialists also have office hours at the Groton Public Library from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday.

The police formerly had locations in Poquonnock Bridge and in Navy housing.

David Mitchell, lead team member with GoodHomes Communities said Wednesday that the company purchased the hotel property last year to convert into a 115-unit apartment complex and recently began renting the first phases of apartments. He said there is a waiting list for the studio and one-bedroom apartments.

Mitchell said the company, with sites across the country, converts hotels and senior housing into housing with attainable rents.

Mitchell said not enough attainable workforce housing has been built over the last 20 to 30 years, a time when construction costs have risen substantially and wages have not kept pace. Meanwhile, much of the housing built 20 to 30 years ago is aging, not well-kept, has disappeared or has been gentrified into high-level rents.

On the other side, many hotels built 20 to 30 years ago have become obsolete and, for the most part, face difficulty with financing, he said. A lot of senior housing is under pressure post-pandemic.

"We convert these hotels and senior housing into very robust and dynamic communities throughout the United States, and our rents are very attainable, because we are not building new construction," he said.

At each community, the company offers to build for no cost and to lease for minimal cost the substation as part of its contribution to the community, he said.

"Our purpose is to be a good citizen and to be a partner with Groton," said Mitchell, who anticipates that the substation facility will be ready within 9 months.