Published January 27. 2009 4:00AM Updated December 11. 2009 1:02PM
Norwich - The Redevelopment Agency had some pointed questions for Janny Lam, the lone developer in the running to renovate the Reid & Hughes Building on Main Street, before voting to recommend the city negotiate an agreement with her.
Lam, who has renovated several historic downtown buildings, submitted a plan in partnership with New York developer Choung Jon Sang. The two have collaborated on several developments in New York, according to the proposal.
Lam and Sang proposed creating a supermarket or drug store in the first floor and eight apartments in the upper stories of the split-level building. Last month, the Redevelopment Agency rejected a second proposal by Long Island developer Donald Monti that lacked specifics on uses for the building, financing and other details.
After a half-hour meeting with Lam Monday, the agency voted unanimously to recommend that the City Council negotiate an agreement with Lam with several specific conditions members would like to see in the development and a strict time schedule, budget and a performance bond.
Lam met with the Redevelopment Agency Monday, and Chairman Thomas Marien started off by questioning the final price. Lam said she has her own staff of professionals, including a plumber, a painter and an electrician, and is confident with the estimates she has received. She also said she has a partner who owns a building-supply business in New York for materials at a lower cost.
She said she knows the brickwork needs work, and is falling down in some spots on the upper levels in the rear, and she has a brickwork specialist as well.
Lam compared the Reid & Hughes building - vacant for the past 20 years - to the nearby Lerou Building on Main Street, which she renovated. Structurally, Lam said, the Lerou Building was the worst building she ever tackled, saying nearly every beam had to be replaced.
”After I did the Lerou building, that is a very good structure to me,” Lam said of the Reid & Hughes. “… To me, it's in very good condition.”
Lam said she talked to retail franchise companies and they are not interested in downtown because of the lack of pedestrian traffic. She proposed the apartments, which she said would help bring more residents to downtown. She said no one wants to be the first chain store to come to an area.
The Reid & Hughes has about 5,000 square feet for retail space. She hopes to bring a small grocery store there. She said she spoke to a friend who has a New York supermarket to possibly bring an Asian store. She said she also spoke to Jeff Lord, whose family owns the private parking lot behind the building, to discuss potentially leasing spaces for the Reid & Hughes for loading and deliveries.
She said Lord told her the lot is “quite full” right now, but she said she offered to lease spaces as they become vacant to reserve them for the Reid & Hughes.
Renovations are expected to take about a year. The designs and engineering plans would take the first two to three months, and she could start gutting the building as those plans are being finalized.
Marien said city officials may want to “weigh into” Lam's ideas for redoing the front façade, which now has a modern granite facing. Lam said she would remove the modern face, but isn't sure of a final design. He said an architectural rendering of the façade could be one condition placed in the development agreement.