A New Reid

Front 2Have you been wondering “What’s up with the old Reid (and Hughes Building)?” If you have, it’s probably not the first time you asked that question, as this property has been one of much banter here in Norwich over the past couple of decades. Our best answer at this time is “promise.” Not the noun (i.e., pledge or vow) but rather the adjective from promise: promising, as the future of this building and site looks more promising. How so?

 Avoiding Demolition

Perhaps the first sign of promise is that the City is re-thinking its plans to demolish the building. In April of 2013, the City hired CLA Engineers to develop a demolition program, which outlined three demolition options, ranging from $574,000 to $797,000. The City Council was ready to act on that report, but felt that there was a need for an assessment of their options, and asked us to assist with that. On August 12, 2013 NCDC delivered an assessment report to the Council the outlined three options for them to consider: do nothing, demolition and rehabilitation(read report here)

This report was a basis for a decision to initiate a third RFP for this building. It looks promising that this could be the last.

Engaged Developer

This third RFP process proved fruitful as three developers submitted proposals. Proposals ranged from renovating the Reid & Hughes Building to a project with multiple phases and properties. The quality of the proposals presented a real challenge for the Proposal Evaluation Committee (PEC – discussed later). The RFP advertisement provided ranking criteria, along with activities that would help the developers achieve the highest score. This may have appeared to be too much detail at the beginning of the process, but with two quality candidates as finalists it proved to be critical, especially when there was a need to report the findings.

Ultimately, the PEC selected POKO Partners (POKO), of Westchester, New York to be the recommended developer and submitted their report to the City Council on March 17, 2014 (read recommendation here). They also recommended that the City Council transfer property ownership to NCDC to facilitate the redevelopment, regardless of which developer is finally engaged in the project. While POKO was recommended, there is a lot more work that is needed to make this project happen.

 Focused Team

This is a project that has a number of moving parts, with various components that have involved various city agencies. Going forward, it will require a continued effort by these various partners to remain engaged in the process and to communicate with the developer and community. The Proposal Evaluation Committee (PEC) included Jim Quarto (Redevelopment Authority (RDA) and city resident), Leland Loose (NCDC, RDA and city resident), Greg Farmer (Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation), Kevin Gremse (National Development Council), Bill Block (City of Norwich and city resident) and Robert Mills (NCDC). Jason Vincent has served as a facilitator of the RFP process and is the ongoing project manager for NCDC. He can be reached at 860.887.6964. What’s Next? Stay Tuned…

March March March March

photo (12)

March 9th saw waves of green washing over the streets of Downtown Norwich as thousands of people flooded the streets to watch the inaugural Saint Patrick’s Day Parade.  The parade was inspiration of business owner Scott Capano who has wanted a Saint Patrick’s Parade since the opening of his business the Harp and Dragon in 2006.  His idea was to have a downtown centric parade that would bring people to the downtown businesses and provide a fun event for citizens of Norwich and give residents of other towns a reason to visit.

A parade committee was formed in November of 2013 and businesses and organizations  such as the City of Norwich Police Department, City of Norwich Fire Department, Greater Norwich Area Chamber of Commerce, Norwich Community Development Corporation and local businesses such as the Harp and Dragon and Chacers Bar and Grill were tapped to be on the committee.  New city resident Jeanne Ireland, previously from western MA, was happy to be involved and was a wealth of knowelge from her previous ork with the Holyoke Parade which has over 25,000 marchers every year.  Norwich’s new mayor Deberey Hinchey was very enthusiastic about the idea and wrote a resolution for Norwich to have a Saint Patrick’s parade saying that it recognizes the Saint Patrick’s Parade as a City of Norwich function and invites participants and spectators to come to Norwich and enjoy the ambiance provided by the downtown event.

The parade had over 700 marchers in its first year and brought over 3,000 people into the city for the parade and subsequent street festival.   What does all this have to do with economic development you may ask?  Plenty!  A city is not all about events, it’s about people and businesses, but, events like the Saint Patrick’s Parade and Festival (fully funded by private dollars, not by city finances) show vibrancy.  The sponsorships display that local businesses are willing to invest back into their community and that people are willing to come to Downtown Norwich if there is a reason.  This is what potential investors and business people need to see.  The ensuing festival gave local small businesses a chance to show everyone what they had to offer, and Downtown’s newest small business Encore Justified (102 Main St.) had their grand opening.   So, while events don’t mean businesses will crop up magically overnight, they do create a sense of vibrancy and community that successful business people look for in their next potential business locations and create an enjoyable atmosphere for citizens to live, work and play.

To view photos from the parade, get more information or you would like to sponsor next year’s parade (it’s never too early) visit their website norwichparade.com.   If you have an idea for an event or want to volunteer your time on other events, we would love to hear from you!

Featured Author Bobby Echevarria


Have you ever wondered how different downtown Norwich looked like 50 years ago or wondered what would have happened if the downtown area would have stayed the same? Did you know that downtown Norwich used to have many more properties and businesses along present day Chelsea Harbor Drive and Howard T. Brown Memorial Park? This area has the potential to create many jobs, to provide a pleasant experience to Norwich’s residents and to those who are visiting, and also benefit the City of Norwich tremendously. There were building units that spanned from the bridge that takes us into downtown to Market Street and many of these units were built over present day Chelsea Harbor Drive. There was also a rail line that went over where part of the Marina is today. These elements are part of the life that downtown Norwich had back in time. It is a fact that Norwich has missed out on the opportunities that come with all of these units that could have provided benefits for its residents, those that are visiting and the City of Norwich as a whole. There has been lost opportunities to provide jobs, recreation, and business and revenue for Norwich with these units.
Currently, the waterfront area of Norwich along Route 2 has many qualities that can be improved upon. One issue that the waterfront area has is that it contains what are known as “stroads.” Route 2 in downtown Norwich is by definition a “stroad” and what is meant by this is that it is a street and road into one and in doing so creates a terrible combination. A road basically is a connecting point between two locations which yields faster driving conditions. A Street has a more personal feel to it, for example, a street would have a café, Laundromat, public space, and walkable area. What downtown Route 2 has become is that it has some places to eat, some walkable areas, but it also is on a road that is built for higher speeds built to pass through. This combination can create a dangerous and unattractive environment for a pedestrian. One example of a downtown that sees plenty of traffic but has managed to implement a walkable street area is downtown Mystic on Route 1. To compare traffic numbers; Route 1 in Mystic gets about 11,800 motorists per day while Chelsea Harbor Drive gets 11,800 and Water Street gets 7,100 totaling 18,900 motorists for Route 2 in Norwich. This means that Mystic’s two way street in their downtown area sees about the same as Norwich’s Route 2 traffic if broken down by Chelsea Harbor Drive and Water Street separately. What this also tells us is that there is no reason why we couldn’t turn Route 2 into a more pedestrian friendly environment. To bring back Water Street and Chelsea Harbor Drive’s sense of place, we could add “complete streets” which are streets that have sidewalks for pedestrians, bicycle lanes for bike riders along with multiple areas to park the bicycles. These streets would also provide ease of access for public transportation as well. These types of streets enable all types of people of all ages and abilities to access it without any difficult challenges. With these parts that make up a “complete street” there would be a big reduction in automobile traffic which in turn makes this area safer and more eco-friendly with more real alternatives to move about the city. With this new design, many people will get to experience Norwich’s waterfront area more conveniently.
It is understandable that today, we cannot rebuild all of the units that had existed prior, but it is possible to make use of the parking garages, highways, and open space that we currently have and in doing so, give Norwich more of a sense of place. There could be more residential units along with novelty shops, restaurants and office space for businesses. If we could develop some of the space that is not used today, we can bring more revenue to Norwich.
Two elements would be included in this proposal. One would be bringing back much of the space that was once used and adding businesses and residential units to those areas. Another would be that once some of these units are revived, we can incorporate modern urban practices to promote a more walkable and environmentally sustainable environment. Now with these two aspects included into the new design of the waterfront area, pedestrians can have ease of access to the shops, businesses, restaurants and residential areas without worrying about traffic flowing through with high speeds. With the incorporation of these two elements, this part of Norwich will be a wonderful place to visit, possibly enhance the nightlife, and make Norwich more profitable.