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Norwich - The Commission on the City Plan unanimously approved Tuesday plans to allow the expansion of retail facilities at Thayer's Marine and the re-establishment of seven apartment units on the upper floors of the landmark waterfront business.
The commission vote followed the approval last year by city zoning authorities of 11 variances to waive lot-size, parking and buffer requirements for the half-acre parcel in a waterfront development zone.
No one showed up to the public hearing Tuesday in opposition to the plans.
"I'm excited," said Rich Thayer, son of Richard A. Thayer Jr., general manager of the marine business, after the commission's vote.
Thayer said the plans still have a few more hoops to jump through before building can start. He hopes to break ground next winter on the project.
The Thayers cited the area's historic character and proximity to the new Norwich Transportation Center as hardships that would justify the variances. Former on-street parking at the site was taken away during construction of the nearby transportation center, they added, making it difficult to comply with new parking requirements implemented a few years ago.
"This is a perfect place to put housing," said Jason Vincent, a certified planner and vice president of the Norwich Community Development Commission, pointing to the development's proximity to a nexus of transportation centers. "This is not a suburban-style development."
"I think this is an excellent project," said commission Chairman Ralph Page after the vote.
Thayer's Marine plans to connect a four-story building at 71-73 West Ave. with another existing building, the former Silver Star Athletic Club at 61-65 W. Main St., both of which date to the 19th century. A new four-story building would then be connected to these structures, forming a boat and marine supply showroom throughout the bottom floor of all three connected buildings, which overlook the Yantic River.
The second floor of the combined structure would house retail marine-related supplies. Thayer's expanded retail space will include hunting and fishing supplies as well as other merchandise intended to attract shoppers year-round.
Susan F. Mattern, a Preston land surveyor, said there used to be 12 residences on site, but they are largely vacant today. The new residences will be larger, between 800 and 1,450 square feet, she said, and range from one-bedroom, one-story apartments to two-bedroom, two-story apartments.