Norwich – A $ 8.8 million redevelopment of two long-vacant high street buildings will be the first recipient of city grants and loans through a revitalized economic development program if approved by the city council.
Norwich Luxury Apartments LLC bought the two-building complex at 77-91 Main Street for $ 1.8 million in early August, proposing a 19th century remodel. The buildings were proposed as the Norwich Heritage Museum in the 1990s a project that ultimately failed after receiving government grants to stabilize decaying buildings.
The project received unanimous support from the board of directors of Norwich Community Development Corp on Thursday. for a $ 400,000 grant to fix building codes and a separate $ 400,000 loan. The move, however, is pending city council approval for a plan to use $ 2 million of the city’s $ 14.4 million US rescue plan grants to revitalize and expand city-wide the former downtown revitalization program.
The council is due to vote on September 7th on City Manager John Salomone’s spending plan for the ARP grant money.
But NCDC President Kevin Brown said the board wanted to show its support with an emergency vote on Thursday so developers can continue planning and designing for the project.
“This project is a $ 8.8 million project in downtown Norwich,” said Brown. “That’s a 10 to 1 return on the public dollars that will be put into this cause if we get permission to move forward and use the ARP to do it.”
Even if the council approves the ARP spending plan on Monday, NCDC still has a few steps to go before it can allocate the proposed $ 2 million. The expanded economic development revitalization program needs to be designed and the NCDC needs to sign an agreement with the city on how the funds will be used. Brown said the former Downtown program will serve as the foundation, with funding split into a building code correction program, rental discount to support new businesses, and a revolving loan, with proceeds remaining in the program to support future developers .
The Main Street Project grant would come under the code fix and revolving loan, Brown said.
Project attorney Stanley Schutzman said in an email to The Day describing the project that the city’s funds would be vital to moving the project forward. But he said the city’s money will not be called until the project’s renovations receive an occupancy certificate from city inspectors.
“It enables development,” Schutzman said in the email. “This development fulfills the criteria and intentions of the funds both with regard to the stimulation of inner city redevelopment and economic activity as well as with regard to the adaptation of the properties to the current regulations.”
The proposed project envisages 42 loft-style apartments with a fitness center for tenants, a lounge, “clean and green” equipment, high-speed communication infrastructure and other amenities. The developers hope to negotiate rented parking spaces for tenants in the two nearby parking garages in the city.
The two buildings would undergo a full facade restoration to maintain their original historical appearance, while retaining “the beautiful exterior masonry, arches and fine architectural details,” Schutzman wrote. A glass case in the lobby will display artifacts from the building’s history.
Schutzman said the builders expect to submit plans by local architect Stefan Nousiopoulos to the city within the next few weeks and, once approved, to begin construction. The project is expected to take 12 to 16 months.
Brown said the Main Street project is exactly the kind of development that NCDC wants to support in downtown and other parts of the city. He said bringing 42 market-priced homes on Main Street would mean customers for nearby restaurants and pubs, downtown shops, and city events.
He said NCDC staff, including former President Jason Vincent, who passed away in December, and transition specialist Fawn Walker worked with developers during the planning phase of the project. Given the “high potential” that NCDC would receive the ARP dollars, agency staff submitted them to the board for approval on Thursday.
“We wouldn’t be as committed if we weren’t sure that project funding is imminent,” said Brown.