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    Tuesday, July 16, 2024

    Hotel plan approved for former Hale Mill in Yantic

    Norwich — Plans by a New York developer to convert the historic granite Hale Mill in Yantic into a 151-room hotel with a pool, restaurant, business center and outdoor amenities, including tennis courts, basketball courts and a playground, received unanimous approval Tuesday after enthusiastic support from neighbors and city officials.

    Mill Development LLC of Woodside, N.Y., which purchased the mill for $826,000 on June 1, submitted plans for the hotel this fall.

    With Tuesday’s approval by the Commission on the City Plan, project owners Gadi Ben Hamo and Meyir Chitrit said they will “definitely” begin construction in spring. Project architect Michael Weisbrod of Crosskey Architects said the group plans to submit applications for federal historic preservation tax credits within the next few weeks.

    Project officials stressed the plan to restore as much of the granite and masonry building as possible but said new portions — including a connector between the main mill to an original boiler room and a covered front entrance for patrons — will be distinctly new but with accents that invoke the historic character of the building, Weisbrod said.

    Weisbrod projected an image of an early 19th century postcard of the mill showing a belfry atop the tall stair tower. Weisbrod said the plan is to replicate the belfry as close to the original design as possible.

    Inside, historic stairways will be retained and highlighted, and photos of the old mill and “lots and lots of artifacts” from the mill will be on display, Hamo said. Hamo said he hopes to reach out to an art school to help design artwork to complement the historic features and artifacts inside the building. The group has contacted members of the Yantic Fire Engine Co. across the street — whose building is made of the same granite — for historic photos and information.

    The granite mill was built in 1865 to replace an earlier wooden mill that burned down, city Historian Dale Plummer told the commission in a letter submitted Tuesday. The mill produced woolen flannel in its heyday. Plummer said the building wouldn’t be suited for modern industrial uses, but a conversion into a hotel, with emphasis on historic preservation of the original structure, would be welcome.

    Hamo and Chitrit said the hotel will be a boutique hotel under the chain IHG, which owns several hotel brands, including Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza hotels, but likely would be named Hale Mill Inn.

    Hamo and Chitrit said the hotel will be marketed for young travelers, either heading to the region’s casinos or escaping for weekend getaways.

    “That’s what we’re looking for,” Hamo said. “We want the young people to bring life to this place.”

    Several members of the neighboring Grace Episcopal Church enthusiastically endorsed the project during Tuesday’s public hearing. John Baldwin, senior warden of the church, said the 1902 current church building was built on land donated by the mill owners. The church, the mill and the Yantic fire station, he said, “are intertwined in this whole area.”

    Norwich Public Works Director Ryan Thompson added the city to the mix, telling the planning commission that the department has been working diligently to restore the historic Sunnyside Bridge, an arched stone bridge over the Yantic River, in the village.

    “I’m happy to see it,” Thompson said of the hotel project, “as a resident and as Public Works director.”

    c.bessette@theday.com

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