One developer out, another showing interest in Preston's former Norwich Hospital property

Preston - Although the Preston Redevelopment Agency is not currently soliciting formal proposals for the former Norwich Hospital property, one developer has backed out of interest in the property and another has called to express new interest, PRA Chairman Sean Nugent said.

Nugent said one development group that includes local Maple Lane Farms owner Allyn Brown has informed the agency that the property would not suit their needs. Brown could not be reached for comment Thursday. In the past, he has said that he was interested in expanding the farm's hydroponic greenhouse operation on land at the southern end of the hospital property, but also was considering other properties.

Nugent said one other developer continues to research a specific parcel on the hospital property, but he could not identify the developer. A third person recently called to express interest in the property, and Nugent said he would make arrangements to meet the person.

The PRA halted its request for proposals process last year after two bidders pulled out and the agency could not reach a deal with the third. The PRA this year expects to finalize a real estate brokerage agreement with the Boston firm JLL to market the property.

The PRA meanwhile is gears up for a year of environmental cleanup using a voter-approved $4 million loan package and the hopes of obtaining additional state and federal cleanup grants. Town officials believe the property would be easier to market to potential developers once all or most of the land is cleared of decaying buildings and contamination.

The loan package includes a $2 million low-cost state loan with a 1.5 percent interest rate and both principal and interest deferred for five years. For every 100 permanent jobs created by future development, $1 million of the state loan would be forgiven.

Terms of the $2 million town taxpayer-funded bonds to match the state grant are not yet known, Nugent and First Selectman Robert Congdon said. Town officials will meet with bond counsel to determine the length of the bond and potential interest rates under various scenarios such as tax-exempt or taxable bonds.

Nugent said more information, but probably not exact numbers, should be available at the Jan. 23 PRA meeting.

c.bessette@theday.com

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