Bronx developer turns his attention to downtown Norwich

Norwich — Randy Persaud's Stackstone Group website boasts in big letters: “What We Do: Revitalize Forgotten Communities.”

In downtown Norwich, Persaud believes he has found the perfect candidate for his Bronx, N.Y.-based five-person development and project management team to show its stuff. The three-year-old firm has rehabbed residential and commercial buildings in the Bronx and one six-unit Tudor building in New Britain and is branching out to more towns in Connecticut and upstate New York.

Persaud has been visiting the region to go to the casinos in recent years, and friends who live here and do business here and in New York invited him to take a look around in eastern Connecticut.

“They tell me I should come here and do stuff,” Persaud said Friday at his remote office in the Norwich Community Development Corp.'s Foundry 66 building at 66 Franklin St.

Persaud has been scoping out downtown Norwich since March, boosted by the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority's plans for a major entertainment and resort complex at the former Norwich Hospital property in Preston, a 5-minute drive away.

His company now has contracts to purchase three vacant, derelict buildings on lower Broadway: the Fairhaven at 26-28 Broadway across from the Wauregan and two smaller buildings that sandwich Billy Wilson's Aging Still, one at 51-53 Broadway and the other 59-61 Broadway.

Persaud hopes to close on the properties — which all have different owners — sometime in June and begin renovations shortly thereafter. He already has engineers and architects working on plans for mixed-use residential and retail/commercial development, he said. He declined to discuss details until he acquires the properties.

“The thing that intrigued me the most,” Persaud said of downtown Norwich, “was how can a place so beautiful be so desolate? This place needs a shot of adrenaline.”

Persaud has met with city officials in several agencies who serve on a review team that counsels prospective developers on what they will need to do. He also has walked through downtown with NCDC President Robert Mills to view available properties. He hopes the lower Broadway block will be the start of his Norwich investments.

He is aware of the negative attitude that appears pervasive about revitalization prospects for downtown and that others have tried and given up. He hopes to prove the naysayers wrong by starting with the highly visible commercial block directly in front of City Hall.

“We want a holistic strategy,” Persaud said. “If we can take one area in Norwich and restore it, then we will rinse and repeat.”

Persaud said he is aware that others have tackled the Fairhaven building in recent years. It has been renovated twice in the past decade only to return to its current derelict state. Persaud said by upgrading the entire block, he hopes to sustain all three buildings, improving the surrounding area, as well.

“We did a full feasibility study of the Fairhaven,” he said. “From the projects we're involved in in New York, the Fairhaven's not that bad."

Persaud, 34, has a background in human resources and consulting, but worked for a time for a commercial developer in the early 2000s. In 2015, he founded the Stackstone Group, deciding to “follow the dream” of his passion for real estate development, taking on fairly small residential and commercial projects. In eastern Connecticut, he realized, he could get “more bang for the buck” than in New York. And he is convinced the Mohegans' Norwich Hospital development will spill over into downtown Norwich.

“Within the next five years, Norwich will be a boom town,” he said, “receiving the influx of the people who will be coming.”

c.bessette@theday.com

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