Posted on February 13, 2023
With their plans to process dredged soil at a rail-connected industrial site on the Thames River on hold, Massachusetts-based Cashman Dredging and Marine Contracting is now pushing to develop the rest of the 165-acre site into a complex of industrial buildings.
Cashman Vice President Allen Perrault presented a conceptual plan to the Ledyard Planning and Zoning Commission on Thursday night showing that the company intends to use the north side of the former Dow Chemical property on Route 12 for its own marine equipment business, and will clear woods and level a hill on the south side of the property to make way for several large industrial buildings that Cashman would lease to other companies.
Perrault said that they plan to start by building a 20,000 square foot building on the north side of the property with a driveway onto Route 12, which would house its marine contracting and equipment division. There would also be a large space on the north side of the property for a lay down area to store large equipment.
One of the largest costs of marine work is moving equipment, Perrault said, and Gales Ferry gives Cashman a location to fix and store equipment between its other centers in Staten Island and Quincy, Massachusetts.
The major marine uses on the Thames River also makes it a prime location for a dredging company, and the proximity to the New London State Pier puts the company in position to supply aggregate material for offshore wind construction, or to stage equipment for offshore wind, Perrault said.
“We’ve already talked to an aggregate supplier with a quarry in Connecticut who may be interested in railing aggregate here and shipping it off by barge,” Perrault said. “The aggregate is inland, and this is the first water site to get to from the quarries.”
Cashman’s attorney Harry Heller said that shipping out aggregate wouldn’t increase the number of trains that run to the site, but it will likely mean those trains have more cars to carry the materials in. There wouldn’t be any aggregates brought in by ship and then transported out by rail, he said.
Heller told the commission that the plans to process dredged materials on the site – which have drawn heavy scrutiny from the community – are temporarily stalled while the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection works out new dredging regulations.
The dredging facility is still on the table, he said, but for now Cashman is looking to move ahead with developing the rest of the property – a process that will likely take 10-15 years to complete, depending on the demand for those spaces, Heller said.
The conceptual designs Cashman showed the commission on Thursday showed four new buildings on the southern end that Cashman would clear and level: a 100,000 square foot building, and 80,000 square foot building, and twin 40,000 square foot buildings.
The plans also show a new 100,000 square foot building and 38,000 square foot building between the existing American Styrenics plant and the railway. American Styrenics, a joint venture of Dow and Chevron, has a long-term ground lease and will remain on the site, Heller said.
Sean Duffy, head of industrial real estate for Cushman & Wakefield, said the “intermodal” rail, highway and river access and its size makes the site a unique opportunity for businesses. Duffy said demand is trending towards larger buildings, and it’s unique to have a site in this market that could accommodate multiple 100,000 square foot buildings.
“There isn’t another site of this size that can deliver these kinds of buildings, even across the river at WestRock,” Duffy said. “The transportation there is more difficult, the neighborhood is more challenging, the pads are smaller, the intermodal was more complex.”
The south end would be leveled and cleared to make room for new buildings, but nothing new would be built until Cashman had a business lined up to use it, Heller said.
“We’re not going to build buildings on speculation,” Heller said. “We’re going to build buildings to suit when we have end users.”
Cashman has not yet submitted a formal application to the town for any of the work considered in the conceptual plan.