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Building recycling business owner buys Atlantic Packaging complex in Greeneville

Norwich – A New York businessman who runs building parts salvage operations in New York City and Middletown and tried unsuccessfully to open similar stores in Norwich and New London has purchased the sprawling former Atlantic Packaging Corp. complex in Greeneville.

Under the name Norwich Phoenix Realty LLC, Evan Blum bought the complex at a June 21 auction, held in private by Maltz Auctions, for $521,000, according to property transaction records filed last week in the Norwich city clerk's office. Norwich Phoenix Realty secured a mortgage for $815,000 for the properties from Sachem Capital Corp.

Blum, who owns and operates Demolition Depot/Irreplaceable Artifacts at 216 E. 125th St. in New York City, carried a fistful of keys into the former Atlantic Packaging office building at 387 N. Main St. in Greeneville Monday and said he is still learning his way around the complex. He found a 1928 building layout map and tacked it to a wall behind a table that serves temporarily as an office desk. An ornate wooden desk the previous owners left him still sits in an adjacent office.

Atlantic Packaging closed last fall after 100 years in business. The complex includes several former industrial buildings along the Shetucket River and a parking lot. A Providence & Worcester freight rail line runs through the property.

Blum said he is still working on a master plan for the mill complex. He plans to use the large mill buildings as a “remanufacturing center,” where former building materials will be reworked by artisans he plans to hire locally into new uses. He plans to lay out part of his vast collection of recycled building materials for sale – from whole building facades to doors, windows, lighting and vintage plumbing materials at the mill.

Norwich City Planner Deanna Rhodes said Monday she hasn't yet met with Blum to discuss his plans, but has visited his retail store on Main Street in Middletown. Rhodes said she would welcome a similar facility in Greeneville. But Rhodes said straight warehousing is not allowed in the mill's general commercial zone.

“I think it would be a great draw in that location,” Rhodes said of a retail operation. “However, warehousing and storage is not a permitted use.”

Blum said Monday he does not plan to use the Greeneville complex as a warehouse.

“I don't believe in warehousing,” he said. “They can't buy what they can't see.”

Blum twice has attempted to expand his recycling businesses into southeastern Connecticut. In 2004, when a property boundary dispute prevented Norwich from sellling the Reid & Hughes Building, then-Mayor Arthur Lathrop reached a lease deal with Blum to bring an Irreplaceable Artifacts store there. But the deal fell through after city officials became concerned that a building owned by Blum in New York City had partially collapsed under the weight of some of the materials. The city revoked the proposed lease contract claiming Blum failed to meet plan deadlines.

Blum's New London Phoenix LLC purchased the Cronin Building at 78-88 State St., New London, for $300,000 in 2005. He disputed city building officials' code violation citations, and called the 2007 listing of the building on a local endangered buildings list "silly." Stacks of doors are visible inside the vacant building.

The Cronin and Blum's Middletown building are involved in a mortgage foreclosure by Tuthill Finance in New London Superior Court, which appears close to final foreclosure action. But Blum said Monday he has resolved the foreclosure and it will be removed from the court calendar. No withdrawal motions were filed Monday.

Blum said he will empty out the Cronin building and hopes to start working on it, but has no immediate plans for it.

“I just like the building so much,” he said of the Cronin Building. “It's a fabulous building. “I stopped it from getting worse.”

Blum described himself as an artist rather than a businessman, and said he has amassed a detailed knowledge of architecture and building features after 42 years in business. He hopes to open an architecture museum in New York.

Despite his career and the “Demolition Depot” title of his New York headquarters operation, Blum said he doesn't demolish buildings, but “deconstructs” them to preserve the ornate or historic components. Their demise, he said, predates his arrival on the scene.

“I've seen the worst things happen,” he said. “I'm just there to pick up the pieces.”

c.bessette@theday.com

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