PRESTON, Conn. (WTNH)– The votes are in and the people of Preston overwhelmingly said yes to developing the former Norwich Hospital site. That referendum opens the door to a huge development right across the river from Mohegan Sun.
For 20 years, Preston has tried to do something with the run-down former psychiatric hospital. On Wednesday, the town signs an agreement with the Mohegan tribe to turn it into a family-friendly entertainment complex.
The vote was not even close. 950 people voted Tuesday, 813 voted yes for the Property Disposition and Development Agreement. That’s a boring name for a plan that is going to be all about fun. Preston has tried to develop the former Norwich State Hospital site before. The state closed it 20 years ago. The town bought it for a dollar, spent millions cleaning it up. Proposals for a movie studio and theme park fell apart.
All the while, this was 400 acres of riverfront property going un-taxed. But it is right across the river from Mohegan Sun. Mohegan Sun is looking for a way to get families with kids and people who don’t gamble to go out to that part of Connecticut, so this plan would open an indoor water park, entertainment venue, outdoor sports shop, a marina and more, and do it with the Mohegan tribe investing somewhere between $200-$600 million dollars.
Whatever is built, the town can then tax. Preston always complained the nearby casinos brought nothing but traffic to the town, now Preston’s grand list could more than double.
With the voting done, the first selectman, the tribal chairman, and the governor are all going to be at an official signing ceremony at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.