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Norwich seeks proposals to develop former YMCA property

Norwich — Three months after taking ownership of the former YMCA building on Main Street, the city is seeking proposals from potential developers who might be interested in developing the building or at least the property that sits at a key gateway to downtown.

The city posted an advertisement Wednesday for qualifications or proposals from developers interested in the property at 337-341 Main St. near the intersection with East and North Main streets, Routes 2 and 12.

The YMCA closed suddenly in 2009 amid financial difficulties and in need of expensive upgrades. The building, which had housed indoor athletic facilities, two pools, offices and a rooming house for men, has sat vacant since, attracting illicit activities, including an arson fire in 2016. City Public Works crews have boarded up entrances multiple times over the years.

With a leaking roof and broken windows, water has penetrated much of the building, collapsing ceilings and creating a mold hazard. Photos of some of the interior conditions are available through links on the bid announcement.

The city allocated $65,500 of a federal brownfield environmental assessment grant for limited studies of the possible extent of mold contamination and to remove an underground fuel tank.

City Manager John Salomone said he has received one unsolicited phone call from a person potentially interested in the building. Mayor Peter Nystrom said he has spoken with one local business owner who might want to renovate and reuse part of the building and demolish part of the structure.

“We’re going with two different tracts,” Salomone said, “one to reuse the building or part of it, and the other to remove the building and use the site. That way if we get multiple offers, we can compare them and see what’s best for the city.”

City officials will host an optional pre-bid meeting at the site at 10 a.m. Oct. 27, and proposals are due by 2 p.m. Nov. 24.

Residents have complained publicly for years about conditions at the YMCA, and the city’s lack of a community center since the facility closed. But until July, the property was owned by the defunct YMCA of Southeastern Connecticut Inc. Its nonprofit status ended when the facility closed, but the city was reluctant to take ownership and incur the liabilities until this summer, when city officials realized nothing would happen without intervention.

Salomone cautioned that the building will not reopen as a community center or sports complex. He said some people mistakenly believed the city took the property to “reopen the Y” but that prospect would be cost prohibitive.

c.bessette@theday.com

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