NCDC was founded in 1963 by a group of visionaries who understood the necessity of bringing economic prosperity to the city and helping to create opportunities for jobs and investment. NCDC’s first project was to create an industrial park in an area of the community that was largely left behind as undevelopable. That created the beginnings of what we now know as the Stanley Israelite Business Park; responsible for an estimated $50 million in real estate taxes to the City since its inception. NCDC continued to expand the 350 acre Park in 1996 and again in 2001, and still manages the Park today. Recently, Dominion recently announced a project where we were able to subdivide property from an existing business site and create a viable new opportunity to bring a well-established company to the City.
In December of 1979 NCDC was again ready to take on another development project. Our leaders signed a contract with the State for the proposed construction of a new courthouse in downtown. The courthouse was planned on a one half acre tract off Main and Shetucket streets and was designed by the late local architect Richard Sharpe, AIA. Groundbreaking occurred in the spring of 1982 and was completed about 18 months later. Along with the courthouse came the Market Street Garage, a parking structure for 199 cars, all of which are leased to the State of Connecticut.
The next major project that NCDC undertook is the 6,270 seat, grass field Dodd Stadium. Built with $9.3 million from State Economic Development funds, construction began in November of 1994 and was completed by Opening Day April 17, 1995. Now home to the Connecticut Tigers, the facility is also used for the New England Colligate All-Star Game, the Big East baseball tournament, several concerts including: Beach Boys, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan and Clint Black as well as hosting TNA Wrestling and more recently, the Connecticut Renaissance Faire.
Projects do not always mean building or adding onto existing buildings, sometimes the project is cleaning up a blighted or problem property in a neighborhood.
When visionary Ron Aliano determined the former coal importing site on Hollyhock Island was prime real estate for a new Marina, NCDC was there waiting to help and was instrumental in the acquisition of Connecticut Development Authority funding for the construction of the American Wharf, restaurant, public space and marina facility. Today It stands as an iconic addition to the City.
A former textile finishing business, located in an old mill building on Route 97 in Occum was destroyed by fire in 1986. After removal of the debris, all that was left was the foundation and a concrete building. The site was then left abandoned for 13 years. As is often the case, the City of Norwich took ownership of the property through tax foreclosure and granted a land use variance to develop Occum Park, a recreational use in a former industrial zone. The CT Department of Energy and Economic and Community Development (DECD) provided $1.5 million in funding for the Occum Park Neighborhood Redevelopment Project. CT’s Department of Environmental Protection and the City of Norwich provided additional funds needed for the project which was administered by NCDC. Clean up of the brownfield property began in 2001 allowing construction to begin in 2004 with a public opening in June of 2005.
Sometimes blighted buildings need to be demolished, sometimes they should be preserved which was the case with the property in which NCDC is now housed (77-95 Main Street). This former retail building was salvaged from the wrecking ball and renovated for mixed-use retail and residential throughout the five floors and 35,000 square feet. Funds for this project came from $2 million grant from the DECD Urban Acts Fund and about $400,000 from the City of Norwich. The project was to remediate lead and asbestos and to add a new rood structure and membrane which was started in 2001 and was completed in 2004. Unfortunately, the entity that was created to carry the project through to completion failed and the property sold to a private developer who has not been able to complete.
In 2006 Otis Library was ready for expansion and a complete renovation turning their building from a former retail space into a new and modern community center with programs and resources for the entire region. The CT Department of Economic and Community Development provided $10.8 million in funding which was administered by NCDC. Renovations began in 2006, were completed and the new Otis Library opened to the public April 30, 2007.
Not an organization to do one project at a time, NCDC took on the construction of the Mercantile Exchange a class-A office building in Downtown in 2005. Several blighted properties were acquired by the city and demolished to create the site which sits across from the Marina with gorgeous river views. The project was completed and welcomed new businesses on March 7, 2007.
The latest and last project on NCDC’s long list is the $22 million dollar Norwich Intermodal Transportation Center. In 1996 as two of the world’s largest casinos were developing in eastern Connecticut and Norwich was positioned for growth, City leadership began working with Congressmen Gejdenson back to develop a regional transportation center that could serve multiple forms of transit to aid the community in dealing with the projected rise of people coming to the region. After much work to adjust the facility for various locations and sizes it was finally sited on Hollyhock Island near future rail and water transportation systems. This project was completed in 2012 using approximately using 90 percent state and federal funding with a local match of less than $2 Million. The facility is open for business and currently houses the SEAT operations for the transfers of passengers from one route to another, a function that was previously done in an open-air lot at the viaduct parking lot. Norwich Public Parking Commission utilizes the offices here for their point of operations.
In 2016 and again in 2018 NCDC assisted OneKey, the owner/developer of the Ponemah Mill to access over $10 million in historical and housing tax credits sufficient to complete the first phase and begin the second phase of construction. In the end, the project will offer over 300 units of high-end residential rental units for mixed-income tenants. The final project will be constructed at a cost above $85 million, significantly benefiting the local economy. The project, along with the nearby apartments at the Hills at River View, are creating a demand for additional services that are expected to create improved retail demand and presence for the entire community.
We estimate that NCDC has brought to Norwich over $300 million in new or improved real estate-based development in the first 55 years of our existence. Our goal now is to drive demand to all businesses and properties in Norwich. Here’s to the next 50 years!