Norwich needs to 'invest' in Reid & Hughes building

Norwich - The city should expect to "invest" at least $1.2 million in the former Reid & Hughes Building on Main Street to attract a viable $6 million development project that could potentially expand to include other downtown buildings in a broader redevelopment project, according to Norwich Community Development Corp. officials.

NCDC President Robert Mills and Vice President Jason Vincent presented a draft request for proposals for the long-vacant former Main Street department store to the City Council Monday.

Aldermen in general supported the draft and will receive more information from NCDC officials on July 15.

The city will also have to decide whether it should spend money marketing the building before the request for proposal deadline. The marketing plan would include advertising in real estate publications, attending trade shows and holding an open house at the building.

NCDC hopes to have cost estimates for the marketing plan by the July 15 City Council meeting, along with an estimate of the immediate roof and structural repairs needed prior to receiving developer proposals. The draft RFP could be advertised as soon as Aug. 1 with a response deadline of Oct. 1.

Vincent argued that a marketing plan would be better than spending at least $800,000 to tear down the building with no tax revenue prospects to follow on the lot.

The draft RFP outlines several financial incentives the city should put into the project, including the estimated $243,000 value of the building. A seven-year property tax abatement would be automatic in the downtown enterprise zone, and the city also could contribute up to $800,000 in a direct grant and another $100,000 in matching grants through the downtown revitalization program.

Additional incentives might include a discount in sewer connection fees, a partial or full waiver of building permit fees and participation in an energy efficiency program offered by Norwich Public Utilities.

The city issued a request for proposals in April 2012 that yielded only one response, from Becker and Becker Associates, the Fairfield firm that conducted the $20 million renovation of the Wauregan Hotel building across the street.

But the City Council rejected Becker and Becker's proposal, saying it was too one-sided with city, state and federal grants and tax credits. Becker included some of the same city incentives that are in the new RFP, including the $800,000 city grant, $100,000 in the downtown matching grant program, along with federal historic preservation tax credits. Becker's plan also called for keeping the Reid & Hughes Building off the tax rolls for the foreseeable future, as long as the building did not earn a profit for the new owner.


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