Norwich council to hear update from Reid & Hughes developer Monday

The boarded-up Reid & Hughes building on Main Street is seen Jan. 30, 2017, in Norwich. The Women’s Institute for Housing and Economic Development, the city's preferred developer, will provide an update Monday, March 5, 2018, to the City Council on the funding the agency has secured to stabilize the building. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
The boarded-up Reid & Hughes building on Main Street is seen Jan. 30, 2017, in Norwich. The Women’s Institute for Housing and Economic Development, the city's preferred developer, will provide an update Monday, March 5, 2018, to the City Council on the funding the agency has secured to stabilize the building. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

Norwich — The preferred developer for the Reid & Hughes building has secured most of the financing needed for the estimated $500,000 initial stabilization work required, but is awaiting a decision by Norwich Community Development Corp. on Tuesday for the final $100,000 needed for the project.

The City Council on Jan. 2 agreed to give the Women’s Institute for Housing and Economic Development a 60-day extension on its deadline to begin work to stabilize the decaying building to allow time for the institute to secure major financing for a planned $6 million renovation project.

On Monday during its 7:30 p.m. meeting at City Hall, the council will hear a progress report on that effort, with a resolution on the agenda either to authorize City Manager John Salomone to proceed with the already approved development agreement or “accept a notification to be issued by the Women’s Institute that it has elected to terminate the Development Agreement,” the resolution states.

The council has been split on its support for the Women’s Institute’s plan to renovate the building into 20 apartments and street-level commercial space. While the council approved the Women’s Institute as the preferred developer, it also voted to authorize up to $800,000 in city bond funds to tear down the building if the institute’s plan falls through. But aldermen expressed no support for contributing any city funds to the renovation project.

Salomone said Friday that Women’s Institute Executive Director Betsy Crum informed him that the group has “basically secured all their funding.” But the group still needs approval of its application for $100,000 in downtown stabilization funding through NCDC. The committee that reviews those applications will meet Tuesday to act on the institute’s request.

NCDC President Robert Mills said the review committee members — two business representatives, one construction contractor and one finance expert — couldn’t arrange their schedules to meet prior to the council meeting.

The Women’s Institute application is different, because the block of funding for the $100,000 grant is designated for building code improvements. He said this would be the first application for building repairs/stabilization. Normally, the applications anticipate the developer being able to receive a certificate of occupancy after the work.

But Mills said there is an avenue for approval of the grant.

“There’s nothing wrong with their application,” Mills said. “It’s a strong application, but we’ve never funded a project in which the end wasn’t a (certificate of occupancy). That’s what the committee has to grapple with. I think the committee can do it if they wish.”

Mills called it unfortunate that the NCDC request became the final piece needed for the project to move forward. Mills said he delayed action on the application hoping the Women’s Institute would secure enough funding elsewhere for the stabilization. That would allow the NCDC funding to be used during the major construction in the future.

c.bessette@theday.com

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