Norwich City Council agrees to 60-day extension for Reid & Hughes developer

Norwich – The City Council agreed Tuesday to give the prospective developer of the Reid & Hughes building a 60-day extension to secure financing for an estimated $500,000 plan to temporarily stabilize the decaying building while the developer seeks funding for a proposed $6 million renovation.

The council voted 6-0, with Alderwoman Stephanie Burnham absent, in favor of granting the 60-day extension to the Women’s Institute for Housing and Economic Development. The extension starts Wednesday and will run through much of the winter.

Betsy Crum, executive director of the Women’s Institute, appealed to the City Council in December to approve the second extension to the 90-day period allotted in the development agreement with the city, which owns the building, to secure funding for the stabilization work. The council in November granted a 30-day extension.

The Women’s Institute did obtain the $500,000 necessary for the work by November, but the organization’s board of director’s balked, because $450,000 of the total would have been loans rather than grants. The board hesitated to commit to loan financing for a project that has no guarantee of success.

Crum asked for the longer extension to try to piece together grants from various historic preservation or foundation sources for the stabilization work. She also asked the council to consider taking a more active role in the renovation project, but that was not discussed Tuesday.

During public comment period Tuesday, several speakers supported the extension, with city Historian Dale Plummer saying the extension is essential for the ultimate goal of preserving the historic 19th century department store building and putting it back on the city tax rolls.

The council voted a year ago in favor of an $800,000 bond to tear down the Main Street building, but the state Historic Preservation Council rejected the city’s request to demolish the building without trying to find a developer. The Women’s Institute was the only bidder in a spring request for proposals.

Plummer told the council the city has lost 31 downtown buildings to demolition since 1981, when the urban center was named a National Historic District. Plummer said many of those sites remain as vacant lots, yielding little or no tax revenue.


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