Overview of progress on former hospital site set Thursday in Preston

Preston - Four developers have contacted the Preston Redevelopment Agency to express interest in the former Norwich Hospital property as town officials continue to clean up the 390-acre property and begin marketing different sections of it.

PRA members will give residents an overview on the cleanup and development prospects and answer questions following Thursday evening's town meeting at the Preston Veterans Memorial School.

The PRA two weeks ago ended negotiations with JHM Financial LLC, which had proposed renewable energy facilities and mixed-use development. PRA Chairman Sean Nugent said Wednesday that the PRA could not nail down specifics about the proposal and was forced to end discussions.

Nugent and First Selectman Robert Congdon said four developers have made "repeated" calls to Nugent expressing interest in portions of the hospital property. Nugent said the agency has not met with the developers.

Nugent said the developers would like to remain confidential at this point, but he said one is a Preston developer. One proposal is for military housing and another is for a "broader mixed-use development," Nugent said.

A third developer is interested in a small parcel south of the Mohegan-Pequot Bridge - land that is clean and available for development. The fourth is less defined, he said.

Tonight's public presentation will focus on the four top priorities: funding, environmental cleanup, the purchase and sales agreement and finding a developer. The town purchased the property in 2009 from the state for $1 and agreed to do the environmental cleanup. The PRA has succeeded in getting the state to amend its purchase-and- sale agreement to allow the town to market portions of the property.

Funding efforts continue to pay for the cleanup, Nugent said. The town has received $2.8 million in federal grants thus far, $6.2 million in state grants and loans and has applied for another $1.5 million to $2 million in a federal Economic Development Administration grant.

But a key funding component remains unresolved. The state awarded Preston a $4 million brownfield loan for the project, but it requires an equal $4 million town match, which would have to be approved by voters at a referendum.

Nugent said the loan and match is a key component of the $14.2 million in total funding needed to clean the property. With the current grants and local matching amounts that have totaled $425,000, the town has demolished 20 of the 55 buildings on the sprawling campus in 18 months. The agency's working agreement with cleanup contractor Manafort Bros. has helped in that the company has agreed to tear down some buildings for salvage value alone.

"It's not an insurmountable mountain anymore," Congdon said of finishing the cleanup.

Congdon said the town's investment should bear fruit, because even a midsize development would have a major impact on the town's tax base.

"The town has a grand list of $450 million," Congdon said. "Any development would have significant impact. A $50 million development is 10 percent of the grand list. We have a huge opportunity to have a positive impact on the mill rate."



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