March March March March

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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

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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.

Municipal Development Plan

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Norwich Community Development Corporation has been tasked by the Norwich City Council to develop a municipal development plan for the partially-completed hotel at 152 Salem Turnpike at the Interstate 395 interchange. The Hampton Project Municipal Development Plan has been drafted to satisfy this request and will be subject to public comment at a hearing scheduled for March 26, 2014. The hearing will be held in Council Chambers in City Hall, and will begin at 6:30 pm.

PROJECT DETAILS

• Blight elimination / economic reuse opportunity
• Located along Interstate 395 and Connecticut Route 82 – a high traffic / high visibility area in the city
• Public Hearing scheduled for March 26, 2014 6:30 pm, Norwich City Hall Council Chambers, 100 Broadway, Norwich, Connecticut
• Project website: askncdc.com/programs-incentives/hampton

About the Hampton Project
In September 2006 PRA Norwich received approval from the City of Norwich Commission on the City Plan to construct a 74,000 square foot 113-room Hampton Inn (Hilton Hotel brand). Construction began in 2007 and ceased in 2009. The property was abandoned in 2010, and foreclosure process commenced.

CT Norwich, LLC (“CTN”), an affiliate of Winston Hospitality, Inc., owns the property located at 154 Salem Turnpike (Connecticut Route 82) in Norwich. They acquired the property in May 2013, when they secured a Certificate of Foreclosure. It is estimated that about $350,000 worth of vandalism has occurred on the property including theft of copper pipes, wire, transformers and other materials.

CTN has invested over $3 million, including $2,750,000 in property acquisition. They plan to invest another $10.146 million in the property to complete the project. Since the time of acquisition, market conditions have eroded:
• lower room rental rates + higher regional vacancy = lower hotel income; plus
• higher development cost = unreasonable low return for developers; results in
• lack of willinessness for financiers due to additional risk and exposure.
CTN is seeking a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) agreement from the City of Norwich in the amount of $2.8 million ($140,000 per year for 20 years), which would provide an estimated $1.3 million in upfront capital for their project (representing 9 percent of the total investment).
Tax Increment Financing is permitted in Connecticut and the tool is only authorized after a Municipal Development Plan process has been completed. The TIF process is described in the Tax Incremental Financing Analysis report prepared by Josh Pothier, City Comptroller, and issued December 17, 2013.

The TIF will not be authorized until the MDP process has been completed, and the completion of the MDP process requires City Council approval. Authorization to begin the MDP process does not bind the City Council to approve the TIF.
Information about the Hampton Project MDP, or the Tax Incremental Financing Analysis report can be found at the NCDC website:
askncdc.com/programs-incentives/hampton
The Site

Aerial view of the unfinished hotel site; Image source: bing.com

For more information, please contact:
Robert Mills – President
Norwich Community Development Corporation
77 Main Street
Norwich, Connecticut 06360
860.887.6964
[email protected] Jay Davies – Project Manager

Winston Hospitality, Inc.
3701 National Drive Suite – 120
Raleigh, North Carolina 27612
919.334.6927
[email protected]

Downtown LOVE

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Downtown Norwich is just one of several historical downtowns located on the waterfront in Connecticut.  A couple of years ago agencies from these towns got together to talk about difficulties they were having and an initiative sprang forth: Destination Downtown.  The idea being that if you love going to Rock the Docks on the waterfront in Norwich, you would probably also like going to concerts on the waterfront in other downtowns also, but how do you know what is happening and where?  Enter luvdowntown.com.

 

Downtown Norwich partnered with Downtown MysticDowntown New LondonDowntown Niantic and Downtown Westerly-Pawcatuck to form a collaborative to promote and market these distinctive, historical downtowns.  The organization applied for a received a grant to build a website and Miranda Creative was hired to oversee the enormous challenge of satisfying five distinctive communities. The website was launched in December and it promotes each downtown separately and lists places to shop, dine, and park in the downtown areas as well as a calendar cataloging all upcoming activities.

 

Moving forward the partners will collaborate to create joint promotional material for display and distribution at events in each city and are hoping to collaborate on a single event that will encompass all downtowns.

 

We would like to thank our sponsors Chelsea Groton Bank, Dime Bank, Keep Space Westerly, The Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Area Chamber of Commerce, and The Washington Trust Company. If you or your business would like to sponsor Destination Downtown or advertise on the website, please let us know.

Featured Author Viktoriia Sulik- Tax Season

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The 2013 tax season is well underway! Have you filed your taxes yet? Don’t know where to start?

There are more options available this season than ever before!

IRS now offers a free tax preparation software available through their Free File System at IRS.gov. There are fourteen commercial tax software companies partnering with IRS that make their products available for free. Each of these companies set their own eligibility criteria. Some offer Free State tax returns, and some charge a fee. Generally, if your adjusted gross income is $58,000.00 or less there will be one or more options for you. IRS provides a list of free software offers: http://apps.irs.gov/app/freeFile/jsp/index.jsp?ck or you can take advantage of Find Free File Software Tool: http://apps.irs.gov/app/freeFile/jsp/wizard.jsp?ck

If you are not comfortable to fill tax forms on your own or have questions, you can take advantage of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program, also administered by IRS. This assistance comes with an income limit of $50,000.00 or less. IRS-certified volunteers can assist you filling your return, answer questions and guide you through it as well as provide basic income tax return preparation. These volunteers will help you take advantage of special income tax credits for which you may qualify, such as Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled. You can find a site near you through an IRS site locator:  http://irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep/

If you would like assistance, these sites are open currently in Norwich:

 

NORWICH HUMAN SERVICES (Appointment required)

80 BROADWAY

NORWICH, CT 06360

860-823-3748

 

CAPITAL GOOD FUND VITA (AT OTIS LIBRARY) VIRTUAL

261 MAIN ST

NORWICH, CT 06360

 

TVCCA/ CT WORKS (Appointment required)

113 SALEM TURNPIKE

SUITE 200

NORWICH, CT 06360

860-425-6626

 

Are you more of a Do It Yourself type?

If your income is over $58,000.00 you can take advantage of Free File Fillable Forms. This forms-based program allows taxpayers to choose the forms and schedules they need, e-file, sign a form electronically and print a copy for personal records. The forms are designed to be a simple electronic equivalent of paper forms that don’t ask about or explain tax situations. The forms do math and offer only basic guidance, you must know how to do your taxes yourself. State tax preparation in this case is not available.

NCDC to Receive “Community Revitalization Leader of the Year” Award from The Chamber of Commerce of Eastern CT

Have you heard the news?

 

NCDC will be receiving an award from The Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut!

 

“Norwich Community Development Corp. and its executive director, Robert B. Mills, will receive the Community Revitalization award. Mills “has transformed NCDC,” according to the nomination form, investing in redevelopment and revitalization worth $6 million in economic activity in the private sector in the last year. Mills and his two staff members are on 30 committees and organizations throughout New London County, devoting hours outside of the work day to improving life not just in Norwich, but in the region.”

Norwich Has So Much Potential…

If you live in Norwich, you have probably said this or heard it many times. It is because you and others see historic, cultural and natural assets throughout the City and wonder why “someone” is not doing “something” about it.

We’ve heard it quite often as well, and are working to transform those assets into products. Trying to rally the “someones” by developing a though-out series of “somethings”. If your questions is “hasn’t that been done before?” The answer is sometimes “yes,” but here is what is different. Past efforts, the Heritage Walk and the various walking tour brochures of the city’s historic neighborhoods, do not tell the story well. There is no hook that captures the imagination of a visitor, to get them to need to stop in the first place, nor has there been a marketing component to create a value proposition. Old buildings, scenic views and “neat” places are not enough to create the draw that places like Norwich need. What do Tourists want? Value for their time and money, unique experiences, along with insight and education. Marketing materials need to inform tourists that these places will deliver and then, most importantly, we need to deliver. Continue reading “Norwich Has So Much Potential…” »

Featured Property

Featured Property July 2013

340 West Thames St.

Amidst the many commercial sites lining busy West Thames Street stands an unpretentious white masonry building that should send your imagination straight to the U.S. Southwest. A touch of mission style, a touch of art deco, a little prairie school – this circa 1935 building’s straight geometric lines blend the styles into one beautifully simple design.  Four large front windows and central entrance grace the front and overlook the wide expanse of sidewalk that meanders through the neighborhood and separates its landscaped frontage from the roadway. Continue reading “Featured Property” »