Norwich marina to be auctioned this week

Norwich — A three-day online auction starts at 3 p.m. Tuesday to sell the Marina at American Wharf at Norwich Harbor either in its entirety or broken up into subsections.

The sale could bring to a close the city’s troubled relationship with current owner Joyal Capital Management LLC.

Joyal has had the marina property for sale for the past two years with an asking price of $1.8 million, and prospective buyers have come and gone without completing a deal. Joyal Capital Management now has enlisted the real estate auction firm Tranzon to conduct a three-day online only auction from 3 p.m. Tuesday through 3 p.m. Friday.

Bidders can bid on either the entire marina and accompanying properties at 38, 46, 74-78 W. Main St. and 150 Chelsea Harbor Drive, or on the marina itself, which is situated on city-owned land at 46 W. Main St., along with leased property at 150 Chelsea Harbor Drive — the site of the former miniature golf course and ice cream shop.

A third option is to bid on property owned by Joyal at 38 and 74-78 W. Main St., the long-vacant former Marina Towers office building and parking lot.

The marina itself has 160 boat slips and a restaurant with 1,400 square feet of interior space and another 2,000 square feet of outdoor seating area. The owners removed the former banquet tent, which had been torn, and the patio area where it stood is described on the auction documents as “the promenade.” The Chelsea Harbor Drive property has a shuttered ice cream shop building, while the former miniature golf course remains overgrown and deteriorated.

Auction documents say the winning bidder is required to submit a $50,000 deposit and be able to close on the sale within 30 days. The new owner would have to reach an agreement with the City Council to take over the remaining years on the original 99-year lease signed with marina developer Ronald Aliano in 1987.

Joyal Capital Management Principal Gary Joyal could not be reached for comment on the pending auction Monday. Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom said Monday the city will respond "if and when" the marina owners inform the city of a pending sale. The city's review of any proposed transfer of lease would be limited to ensuring the prospective buyer has the financial ability to operate the marina.

Nystrom and Robert Mills, president of the Norwich Community Development Corp., the city’s economic development agency, said they were surprised that they had not received any inquiries about the property. Mills said the city is not involved in the auction, other than having control of the lease transfer.

Harbor Management Commission Chairman H. Tucker Braddock called it “a great opportunity” for someone who wants to invest in waterfront development, noting the new owner would have to make some upgrades.

Joyal purchased the marina development and the use of the Chelsea Harbor Drive property from Aliano’s estate for $750,000 Nov. 1, 2011. The Norwich City Council had approved the transfer of the lease to Joyal two months earlier. Joyal had acquired the former Marina Towers property separately prior to the marina sale.

But in recent years, the city’s relationship with Joyal soured, as city officials, boaters and local business owners complained about deteriorating conditions at the property. The City Council last summer threatened to find the owners in default of the lease, but the company promptly made back-due lease payments and challenged the city’s contention that requested upgrades to the facility were mandated in the lease.

The on-site marina restaurant never opened in 2019, and underground fuel tanks for boaters were removed by state mandate when they reached their 30-year lifespan and never replaced, leaving boaters on their own to find fuel either after sailing up the Thames River from Long Island Sound or before departing for the shoreline.

The banquet tent never was replaced, and its anchor posts protrude from the patio. Wooden docks also had deteriorated in an area along the west bank of the marina before being replaced after pressure from the city, and the marina members’ swimming pool remained closed for much of the season.

Louis Fusaro, the former city police chief and a longtime boater and tenant at the marina, said Monday the marina owners did not inform the boaters of the upcoming auction, but he became aware of it elsewhere. Fusaro welcomed a potential change in ownership if it brings renewed investment and interest in the marina.

“I think it’s a good thing,” Fusaro said. “I don’t really think the current owner is that interested in running a marina. It was sad this year. They didn’t open the restaurant. It’s not that the previous restaurateur wasn’t interested in running it.”

c.bessette@theday.com

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