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    Sunday, February 25, 2024

    Sale of The Day building underway

    The Day building at 47 Eugene O'Neill Drive in New London. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    New London ― A Maine development company whose motto is “Restoring Neighborhood Icons” has entered into a purchase and sales agreement to buy The Day’s historic headquarters building at 47 Eugene O’Neill Drive for $1.875 million.

    Dash Davidson, a principal in High Tide Capital with his partner Max Patinkin, said Wednesday the sales agreement was signed on Monday after years of discussion.

    “It was a long process getting here, but the real negotiations only began a couple of months ago,” he said during a phone interview. “We’re very excited to get across the finish line. This is one of the largest available parcels in the city.”

    The four-story building, which has housed generations of reporters, editors and other newspaper staff, was initially listed for sale in February 2022 for $2.65 million, a price tag that included 65,000 square feet of office space and less than an acre of land.

    The announcement comes as the newspaper finalizes plans for a new downtown home.

    High Tide Capital has been involved in several completed and ongoing downtown rehab projects, including the transformation of The Manwaring Building on State Street into student housing for Connecticut College students and the nearly finished renovation of three Bank Street addresses into The Riverbank retail and housing complex.

    Davidson said his plans for The Day building are still in the early discussion stages but will likely involve expanding the existing park space fronting the structure and adding commercial and residential spaces inside the 116-year-old building.

    “We’ve received significant support from the mayor, his staff and zoning and economic development officials and will continue to work closely with them to figure out the best use of the building,” he said, adding the company expects to apply for the same types of state grants that enabled the Bank Street project to move ahead.

    Timothy Dwyer, The Day’s president and publisher, said there were three serious bidders for the building, but High Tide’s track record of “respect and familiarity” with historic buildings made a distinct impression.

    “In the end, their presentation plan paid homage to the historic district and homage to the building,” Dwyer said. “Whatever they do with the building, it will be a centerpiece of downtown, as important to the city’s historic district as anything like the Coast Guard museum or the train station.”

    Dwyer said the company began searching for a new downtown home several years ago.

    “It doesn’t make sense to occupy a space that’s way too big for us,” he said. “It’s time to pass the torch to a new set of owners.”

    The shutdown and selling off of The Day’s press — since 2011, the paper's been printed in Providence — and newsroom downsizing occasioned by falling revenues has left the company with far more space than it requires.

    Dwyer said no decision has yet been made on where The Day will operate from after the sale closing, though he said there is “one space in mind” for the paper’s future office.

    “We’ll have some time since the company generously gave us six months after closing to move,” he said.

    He added the newspaper’s move to a new location is a little complex and “not like moving from one house to another.”

    Mayor Michael Passero praised High Tide Capital’s track record of “re-activating and repurposing” vacant properties into entities delivering a “significant economic impact” to the city.

    Passero called The Day building purchase good news at a time when newspaper companies across the country are downsizing their brick-and-mortar footprints.

    “Newspapers just don’t need the same kind of real estate they’ve historically used,” he said. “This deal allows The Day to lease a downtown office space ― places that are a special challenge for a city to fill ― and keeps the workers here.”

    Lynda B. Smith, a longtime member of The Day’s Board of Directors and member of the business community with a long history of community involvement, said, “Dash Davidson and Max Patinken have a great reputation and have some excellent ideas of using The Day building in ways that will benefit our community, such as not only having retail space and residential space, but also creating space for a Day museum to display important artifacts from The Day’s history in our community.”

    Smith said, “Mayor Passero first contacted me highly recommending them. His vision for our community and the purchase of The Day building by Dash and Max is in keeping with the vision of continuing to create an exciting, vibrant community in downtown New London that people will want to come to and spend time and enjoy.”

    Attorney William Fish Jr., a member of The Day’s Board of Directors and partner at the Hinckley Allen law firm, said the imminent sale will allow the newspaper to sell an important asset on its balance sheet.

    “And at the same time, use that money to move into a better space conducive to The Day’s present and future work,” he said.

    Davidson said the deal was attractive on a series of fronts, including for his company, the city and the newspaper.

    “We’re so excited for the opportunity and privilege to offer a new chapter and new life to The Day,” he said. “It’s a long, complex project that will help the newspaper achieve its goals and come out a stronger and more efficient business. This will be a celebration of the past and evocative of the future of New London.”

    Dwyer said a portion of the sale money will be dedicated to paying back a line of credit and investing in the move to new office space.

    “I love this building,” Dwyer said, recalling the once-bustling, but now quiet press and mail rooms. “There’s so much history ― Day history ― here. This building’s been here since before the automobile and there’s a lot of sweat equity here from past and present employees.”

    j.penney@theday.com

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