$40M Approved for Next Phase of New London Coast Guard Museum Project

the National Coast Guard Museum keel-laying ceremony
Susan Curtin, retired Coast Guard Petty Officer, Vincent W. Patton, former Master Chief Petty Officer of the U.S. Coast Guard, and other museum chair members unveil a commemorative plaque in New London, CT, Aug 19, 2022 during the National Coast Guard Museum keel-laying ceremony. (Matthew Thieme/U.S. Coast Guard)

NEW LONDON — A recent funding approval will keep the planned National Coast Guard Museum on track for a 2026 opening on the city's waterfront, project officials said on Thursday.

The National Coast Guard Museum Association Board of Directors on June 12 approved allotting $40 million for the next phase of construction on the 89,000-square-foot, six-story museum behind Union Station, said Wes Pulver, association president and a retired Coast Guard captain.

The money will pay for final foundation work, as well as "getting steel out of the ground" later this year, Pulver said.

"You're going to see a lot of work this summer with concrete pile caps finished to distribute the weight of the building," he said. "Then this fall, we'll have a mock-up of the structure put up in October with that steel work continuing over the winter. This is all with the goal of finishing the work in late 2025."

Once complete, the building will be turned over to Coast Guard officials who will set a formal opening date. Construction is being overseen by the North Stonington-based A/Z Corp.

The project's $150 million price tag — about 70% of which will go to construction costs ― includes the creation of a pedestrian bridge connecting the museum to the Water Street parking garage.

The project at 1790 Waterfront Drive will be funded through a combination of federal, state and privately raised funds. Pulver said the project's approximately 6,000 donors have so far raised roughly $47 million toward a $50 million capital campaign goal.

Pulver said he's amazed by the generosity of museum donors, including a World War II veteran who mailed in a letter complete with a $15 check.

"That means the world to us and motivates us," Pulver said.

The Coast Guard is the only one of the five military branches without a national museum.

The construction area, tucked-in between the downtown ferry port, City Pier and the Thames River, was quiet Thursday, as passengers from a nearby docked cruise ship walked past a perimeter fence marking off the work site.

Orange cones on the dirt foundation mark the spots where concrete pads will be sunk to shore up the soft ground before tons of metal are erected atop the site.

Two construction bid events were held in April attracting dozens of prospective contractors hoping to be awarded jobs related to the concrete foundation, skeletal steel and flooring, as well as the exterior metal panels, glass curtain wall and roofing work. Companies were also invited to bid on elevator, fireproofing, plumbing and electrical work.

Pulver said the bid submissions are still being assessed but will likely be awarded sometime this month.

Several of the museum's completed floors, or "decks" will each be dedicated to a specific Coast Guard theme, including safety, security and stewardship.

A Sikorsky MH-60T Jayhawk, the helicopter used by the Coast Guard for search and rescue operations, will be displayed in the museum's atrium, while a top-level deck will feature a memorial terrace, simulation center and event space.

The Eagle, a training vessel for cadets at the Coast Guard Academy, is expected to be a main feature of the museum and will be docked at nearby City Pier when the ship is in New London.

Museum boosters, including city officials, are touting the facility as a tourism generator estimated to bring 300,000 annual visitors to the region along with up to $20 million in associated tourism revenue.


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