Published April 25. 2010 4:00AM
New London - A New Haven man successfully bid $1.25 million Saturday for the Lighthouse Inn, promising to restore the weathered landmark to its former glory.
Anthony Acri, 54, president of KIC Development, an Arlington, Va.-based construction management firm, outbid the Business Loan Center, the bank holding the first mortgage on the property, in a foreclosure sale at the Guthrie Place location. Many of the more than two dozen locals in attendance literally applauded Acri's purchase.
"I can't wait (to begin renovations)," Acri said. "If we close in 30 days, I want to start work on it in 31 days."
Acri and the bank were the only bidders to qualify by submitting certified checks for $100,000, according to Narcy Dubicki, the New London attorney appointed by the Superior Court to conduct the sale. The auction opened with a $1 million offer by the bank, followed by Acri's $1,050,000 bid. The bank then offered $1,247,365.73, prompting Acri's winning bid of $1.25 million.
While the sale will settle the mortgage on the property, Acri will be responsible for more than $200,000 in back taxes as well as water and sewer charges of more than $75,000, said Dubicki, whose report of the sale must be approved by the court. A closing, at which Acri must pay the balance of the sale price, must take place within 30 days of the court's approval.
"My plans are to rescue it back to its old state," Acri said by phone later in the day. "We want to run it as an inn, a hotel, a restaurant, with weddings and all kinds of events."
Acri's mother and two daughters accompanied him to the auction. His daughters, Lauren and Lyndsay, who work in event planning in New York City, will run the inn, Acri said, adding, "It'll be a family operation."
Acri said he never saw the inn when it was in operation but "fell in love with it" prior to an earlier foreclosure sale that was canceled. He said he had been considering acquiring other properties at the time, including a small hotel in the South and a marina in Florida, before settling on the inn.
He said his first goal is to restore the mansion on the property and have it "operational" by Thanksgiving. He intends to have the restaurant and catering segments of the businesses running at about the same time and to develop a spa on the property thereafter. He did not say how much he intends to invest in the restoration.
Acri said he travels between New Haven and Virginia, where he is president of KIC Development, which, according to its website, is a "technical solutions corporation" that provides services in such areas as construction, facilities maintenance and environmental engineering. As an Alaskan native corporation, it qualifies for preferential treatment in securing government contracts.
A Lighthouse Inn auction scheduled last September was called off when the inn's former operator, Christopher Plummer, filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition that was ultimately dismissed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The property, built in 1906 as the summer home of steel baron Charles Strong Guthrie, was converted to an inn during the 1920s. Dogged by financial difficulties, it has been closed since 2008.