Ponemah developer buys mill's former store

Norwich — Historically, the thousands of workers who plied through their daily shifts at the giant Ponemah Mill in Taftville could cross the street and buy their groceries and learn about upcoming social events, dances, community meetings or church services at the company store building.

The New Jersey developers converting the Ponemah Mill into 237 apartments hope for a new version of that relationship in the coming months and years.

Ponemah Mill developer OneKey LLC’s principal, Paula O’Neill, on Tuesday purchased what was the original Ponemah Mill company store building at 1-9 N. Second Ave. under the name Taftville Landing LLC for $170,000 from the estate of George Chaput. The three-story commercial brick building, which matches the architecture of the mill, currently houses the Luis Pabon Dance Arts Centre and the Hair Do’s hair salon.

Both tenants have planned to stay in the building, OneKey spokesman Louis Kaufman said Wednesday. Owners of the businesses could not be reached Wednesday.

“We’re going to make the space attractive and see who’s interested,” Kaufman said of the plans for the building. “There’s a lot of people moving in (at the Ponemah Mill) right now, so we’re creating commercial opportunities to support them.”

The $30 million first phase of the Ponemah Mill development was completed in November, and Kaufman said more than half the 116 apartments now are occupied.

Construction on the $32 million second phase, with 121 apartments, will begin in spring.

Kaufman said there are no set plans yet for the 23,166-square-foot former store building. The developer “just picked it up” for a good price and will address marketing possibilities for commercial tenants.

“It’s a lovely building,” he said.

City Planner Deanna Rhodes called it a “beautiful historic building that has character.” The building is zoned for general commercial development, and OneKey already owns the adjacent parking lot that fronts on Route 97, making it easier to attract development.

“It will enhance the character of the neighborhood to have that developed,” Rhodes said.

Norwich city Historian Dale Plummer said the 1895 building fulfilled “a bunch of functions” for mill workers. The company store sold goods to customers on credit, with the cost taken out of workers’ weekly pay. During the Depression, when cash was tight, the company paid in script that was good at the store, Plummer said.

Upstairs, mill-sanctioned social events, meetings and celebrations would be held. The Taftville Congregational Church held services there before its building — the green church a block away — was built in 1905, Plummer said.

“It’s a beautiful building,” Plummer said.



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