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Norwich starts effort to seek developers for Reid & Hughes

By Claire Bessette

Publication: theday.com

Published September 23. 2013 2:00PM   Updated September 23. 2013 11:18PM

Norwich — Norwich Community Development Corp. officials hope a new campaign to seek developers for the long-vacant Reid & Hughes building that was launched Monday will yield different results than past failed attempts, especially with the city contributing at least $1.14 million to the development package.

Standing on a sunlit sidewalk in Franklin Square with the split-level Reid & Hughes in the background, NCDC officials said they hope redevelopment of the Reid & Hughes can spark other renovations in the Main Street-Franklin Square area.

NCDC Vice President Jason Vincent said the City Council's awareness and commitment that it will take a significant public investment to make any redevelopment project work will be a big plus in marketing the building. NCDC officials estimate the project would cost at least $6 million, meaning a nearly 20 percent city contribution, plus possible additional incentives including sewer hook-up or building permit waivers and a possible city cash bond toward the project.

Responses to the request for proposals (RFP) will be due by Jan. 10 at 4 p.m. NCDC will rank the responses using a point system in seven categories including developers' experience, proposed building use, final appearance of the building and dollar value of the investment. Bonus points could be given for including nearby buildings in the project.

NCDC anticipates interviewing candidates by late January and making a recommendation to the City Council for a preferred developer in February.

Vincent said prior to Monday's release of the RFP — which is now posted at www.ask.ncdc.com — six developers already had expressed some interest in the building. Four of those inquiries came unsolicited, while NCDC contacted two firms with experience in historic rehabilitation.

NCDC has allocated $20,000 for the marketing campaign and already has advertised in a New England real estate publication. NCDC plans to market the building to developers throughout New England, New York and New Jersey, NCDC President Robert Mills said. Social media also will be used in the marketing campaign with Facebook, Twitter and other Internet social media outlets to be used in the campaign, Vincent said.

Anyone who comes to see the building also will be shown the surrounding Main Street and Franklin Square area and other available buildings, including the historic People's Bank building at the corner of Main and Broadway. NCDC hopes the Reid & Hughes can become a catalyst for a larger block development in the area.

William Champagne, president of the Norwich Historical Society, welcomed an aggressive effort to market the Reid & Hughes to preserve the historic Main Street streetscape and to enhance downtown economic development.

"Nobody is going to build a new building there," Champagne said of the alternative to tear down the building.



c.bessette@theday.com

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