Norwich city funding rejected for Reid & Hughes project

The boarded-up Reid and Hughes building on Main Street in Norwich is seen Monday, Jan. 30, 2017.  A review committee for the downtown revitalization fund voted unanimously Tuesday to reject the application for a $150,000 grant by the preferred developer for the building, a move that could kill a proposed $6 million renovation. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
The boarded-up Reid and Hughes building on Main Street in Norwich is seen Monday, Jan. 30, 2017. A review committee for the downtown revitalization fund voted unanimously Tuesday to reject the application for a $150,000 grant by the preferred developer for the building, a move that could kill a proposed $6 million renovation. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

Norwich — A review committee for the downtown revitalization fund voted unanimously Tuesday to reject the application for a $150,000 grant by the preferred developer for the Reid & Hughes building, a move that could kill the proposed $6 million renovation of the long-vacant, city-owned building.

The committee felt the project “did not fit into the objective of the downtown revitalization program,” Robert Mills, president of the Norwich Community Development Corp. said in a statement following the vote. NCDC oversees the revitalization program.

The Women’s Institute for Housing and Economic Development, the city’s preferred developer in what is considered the last chance to save the decaying former department store on Main Street, planned to use the city grant as the final piece in a combination of grants and loans for an initial stabilization of the building.

The institute submitted a plan to convert the 19th-century building into 20 apartments and street-level commercial space. But the Women’s Institute’s board of directors balked at committing to loans for the initial $500,000 stabilization work in fear that the building ultimately couldn’t be saved.

Women’s Institute Executive Director Betsy Crum could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening. On Monday night, she told the City Council that the institute had obtained $315,000 in grants for the stabilization project, but needed the $150,000 from the downtown revitalization funds, and would use a $211,689 loan to finish the stabilization.

But without the city grant, the Women’s Institute could choose to terminate its development agreement with the city.

Mayor Peter Nystrom said Tuesday “the ball’s in the Women’s Institute’s court” to try to come up with another source of grant funding for the stabilization portion of the project.

Prior to seeking development proposals — the Women’s Institute was the lone bidder — the City Council voted to bond up to $800,000 to demolish the building. But the state Historic Preservation Council rejected the city’s request to tear it down.

Nystrom and Alderwoman Stacy Gould both said Tuesday it would be up to the full City Council whether to have the city directly contribute cash to the project, but that concept has received little support from the council to date.

c.bessette@theday.com

READER COMMENTS

Loading comments...
Hide Comments