Thames Plaza The Missing 'Link' In Norwich?

Norwich — Retail shopping could be coming to the city's waterfront, possibly providing the much-desired pedestrian “link” from downtown to the waterfront.

Downtown developer Janny Lam and a group of New York partners purchased the Thames Plaza office complex at 101 Water St. from the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation on Friday for $1.75 million. Lam said Tuesday that she could not discuss details yet, but plans to develop a mini-mall for retail shopping in the three-story building. The several current office tenants, including a U.S. Social Security Administration office and two law firms, would remain in the building.

She hopes to attract an international bank to the vacant former Fleet Bank branch space in the building.

“It's always good to have another bank in there,” she said.

Lam said an architect has started working on plans for the building. Unlike many downtown buildings, Thames Plaza has accompanying parking in a lower-level ground floor. There also is a pedestrian plaza on the Water Street side.

The idea of new retail shopping in downtown pleased Rick Kramer, executive director of Rose City Renaissance, the city's Main Street program. Thames Plaza, and Water Street in general, are situated between downtown and Norwich Harbor. The building overlooks the Howard T. Brown Memorial Park and Norwich Harbor on the Chelsea Harbor Drive side. The Water Street side has views up Market Street to the Norwich Superior Courthouse and Main Street.

“One of the important things we can do in Norwich is link downtown to the waterfront,” Kramer said. “Her proven ability to bring development to downtown could be a key element in achieving that.”

Mayor Benjamin Lathrop also said he was pleased that Lam purchased the building, although Lathrop had hoped to market the entire Water Street block from the eight-sided office building that houses Norwich Business Machines — also owned by the Mashantuckets — to the parking garage for the Mercantile Exchange office complex leased by the tribe. A city-owned parking garage in the middle of the block would be offered as well in the mayor's scenario.

Lathrop said he would call Lam to discuss her plans for the Thames Plaza building, hoping those plans include a façade upgrade.
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