Vision for the future: Stonington EDC eyes redevelopment of Exit 90 gateway – The Westerly Sun

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Updated: September 20, 2021 @ 4:07 am
Exit from I95 S on to Route 27. Exit 90 on I-95 in Mystic is being studied to improve its appearance to motorists exiting highway and pedestrian accessability. Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun
Car exiting I95 S. Exit 90 off I-95 in Mystic is being studied to improve its appearance to motorists exiting highway and pedestrian accessability. Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun
Large parking lots line Route 27 near N/S Exit 90 off of I95. Exit 90 of !-95 in Mystic is being studied to improve its appearance to motorists exiting highway and pedestrian accessability. Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun
Exit from I95 S on to Route 27. Exit 90 on I-95 in Mystic is being studied to improve its appearance to motorists exiting highway and pedestrian accessability. Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun
Exit from I95 S on to Route 27. Exit 90 on I-95 in Mystic is being studied to improve its appearance to motorists exiting highway and pedestrian accessability. Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun
Entrance ramp to !-95S Exit 90 ramps off of !-95 in Mystic are being studied to improve its appearance to motorists exiting highway and pedestrian accessability. Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun
Large parking lots line Route 27 near N/S Exit 90 off of I95. Exit 90 off of !-95 in Mystic are being studied to improve its appearance to motorists exiting highway and pedestrian accessability. Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun
Entrance ramp to !-95N off of Route 27. Exit 90 ramps off of !-95 in Mystic is being studied to improve its appearance to motorists exiting highway and pedestrian accessability. Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun
Large parking lots line Route 27 near N/S Exit 90 off of I95. Exit 90 off of !-95 in Mystic are being studied to improve its appearance to motorists exiting highway and pedestrian accessability. Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun
Large parking lots line Route 27 near N/S Exit 90 off of I95. Exit 90 off of !-95 in Mystic are being studied to improve its appearance to motorists exiting highway and pedestrian accessability. Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun
Large parking lots line Route 27 near N/S Exit 90 off of I95. Exit 90 off of !-95 in Mystic are being studied to improve its appearance to motorists exiting highway and pedestrian accessability. Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun

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Exit from I95 S on to Route 27. Exit 90 on I-95 in Mystic is being studied to improve its appearance to motorists exiting highway and pedestrian accessability. Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun
Car exiting I95 S. Exit 90 off I-95 in Mystic is being studied to improve its appearance to motorists exiting highway and pedestrian accessability. Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun
Large parking lots line Route 27 near N/S Exit 90 off of I95. Exit 90 of !-95 in Mystic is being studied to improve its appearance to motorists exiting highway and pedestrian accessability. Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun
Exit from I95 S on to Route 27. Exit 90 on I-95 in Mystic is being studied to improve its appearance to motorists exiting highway and pedestrian accessability. Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun
Exit from I95 S on to Route 27. Exit 90 on I-95 in Mystic is being studied to improve its appearance to motorists exiting highway and pedestrian accessability. Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun
Entrance ramp to !-95S Exit 90 ramps off of !-95 in Mystic are being studied to improve its appearance to motorists exiting highway and pedestrian accessability. Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun
Large parking lots line Route 27 near N/S Exit 90 off of I95. Exit 90 off of !-95 in Mystic are being studied to improve its appearance to motorists exiting highway and pedestrian accessability. Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun
Entrance ramp to !-95N off of Route 27. Exit 90 ramps off of !-95 in Mystic is being studied to improve its appearance to motorists exiting highway and pedestrian accessability. Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun
Large parking lots line Route 27 near N/S Exit 90 off of I95. Exit 90 off of !-95 in Mystic are being studied to improve its appearance to motorists exiting highway and pedestrian accessability. Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun
Large parking lots line Route 27 near N/S Exit 90 off of I95. Exit 90 off of !-95 in Mystic are being studied to improve its appearance to motorists exiting highway and pedestrian accessability. Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun
Large parking lots line Route 27 near N/S Exit 90 off of I95. Exit 90 off of !-95 in Mystic are being studied to improve its appearance to motorists exiting highway and pedestrian accessability. Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun
STONINGTON — Members of the town’s Economic Development Commission have crafted a preliminary 25-year plan to redesign the Exit 90 gateway to improve branding, enhance pedestrian safety and aid in the long-term redevelopment of the Route 27 corridor.
Now the commission is seeking input from the public to gauge interest and allow the town to move forward on a plan that will benefit the entire community.
The effort, which is focused on how to make Exit 90 on I-95 a more welcoming gateway for visitors and residents, is part of an ongoing long-term vision to develop Exit 90 in a manner that “transforms the exit into a place that is an attractive place to live, work and play,” officials said this week. The ambitious plan includes seeking a redesign of the entrance, including signage welcoming visitors, redesigning Route 27 to improve safety and encourage pedestrian traffic, and a trail system for walking and biking that would connect Exit 90 to downtown Mystic, just over a mile away.
The vision is one that EDC member Kevin Bowdler, who chairs the subcommittee that drafted the vision, said is designed to move the town forward and attract new businesses and residents to improve the grand list without losing the existing green space that has made Mystic an attractive destination.
“It’s a lifestyle vision where people are able to walk to the nearby services and restaurants, enjoy natural resources such as the Mystic River, and even walk from Olde Mistick Village to downtown Mystic without being concerned for their safety,” Bowdler said Wednesday.
The vision includes four specific goals, he explained, and seeks to have the Village and downtown complement one another rather than compete.
As part of the vision, members of the EDC are seeking to improve aesthetics at Exit 90 to include better lighting and signage that welcomes visitors to Mystic and Stonington, enhance the ease of access to walking and biking paths in the region including connecting to Coogan Farm, providing greater river access and identifying potential zone changes.
There are currently no signs at the exit, and Bowdler said the town will need to rebrand in order to capitalize on tourism without negatively impacting residents or business owners. The corridor includes aging hotels, he said, and as many of those properties look to renovate or redevelop, the vision will help serve as a guide to improve upon what is already available.
“It’s about branding, and a welcoming gateway when getting off I-95 will only serve to help spur proper growth and development,” he said.
For those on the commission, connecting walking paths and improving pedestrian safety remain high priorities both now and into the future.
Stonington Economic Development Commission Chairman David Hammond said last week that the goal is to provide a beautiful, inviting entryway into the community that will provide visitors with the “ahh, we’re here” moment when they arrive.
“It should not look like a strip mall or ‘anywhere’ USA. Instead, the exit should be attractive, reflect our New England quaintness, and have a feeling that presents a slower and a more relaxed way of life,” Hammond said. “We want to encourage visitors to come to Mystic while also minimizing the impact on its residents.”
In a news release from the Economic Development Commission, members said that pedestrian and bike mobility that would allow visitors and residents to walk navigate the area easily and safely will be an integral part of the vision. Bowdler noted that it will also require the town to look not only at how to redesign roadways and crossings, but also to enhance opportunities for residential expansion.
“Imagine being able to walk from home or a hotel to Starbucks or one of the local restaurants, or to head a different direction and enjoy a walking trail or the Mystic River,” Bowdler said. “The existing roadway was designed over 50 years ago with a focus on traffic, and it has made it a dangerous place, discouraging many from walking.”
Another goal of the effort, commission members said, is to redesign aspects of the corridor to expand density in a way that would potentially eliminate many of the large parking lots currently visible from the main road by building up, creating aesthetically pleasing mixed-use properties that would hide the parking in garages underneath.
In order to make the plan work for local businesses and residents, however, members said it will be essential to hear from those who live and work in the area. The commission has already reached out to businesses and residents along the corridor, but is also requesting that Stonington residents and visitors take a few moments to complete a survey to share their thoughts.
The survey will remain open until late September or early October, Bowdler said, and the commission would hold a public meeting later in October to share results.
“This is an effort to not only be transparent, but to receive feedback and get input so that we can build a long-term plan that everyone can be proud of,” he said.
To participate in the survey, visit https://mystic.paperform.co/. Those interested can also learn more about the initiative on the Stonington EDC website at stonington1649.com.
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