NORWICH, Connecticut (June 6, 2018) — NCDC awarded the Ron Aliano Memorial Service Award for their distinguished service in the development of the city. Read the full article: https://www.theday.com/article/20180607/BIZ02/180609481
NORWICH, Connecticut (April 12, 2018) – Today, The Chelsea Groton Foundation announced funding for a multi-year project of supporting the revitalization of Downtown Norwich through a Global City Initiative. This multi-cultural program will assist existing efforts to bring people together to participate in rich, diverse, multicultural experiences that the residents of Norwich and its surrounding communities have to offer. The Initiative will also assist entrepreneurs who are interested in occupying storefront spaces in the Downtown area.
“Just like we’ve seen in many small towns throughout New England, the more activity there is in downtown areas, the better the commerce is. Similarly, having attractive and interesting storefronts helps to drive activity. What’s unique to Norwich however, is the incredible cultural diversity of its’ residents,” explained Michael Rauh, President and CEO of Chelsea Groton Bank.
“Norwich is such a special place. Our goal with funding this program is to capitalize on the wonderful diversity, beautiful architecture and incredible waterfronts that are all already present in Norwich,” continued Rauh. “We’re thrilled to be working with NCDC on the project, and hope that the Global City Initiative will help to bring together existing programming, improve awareness of all Norwich has to offer, and revitalize Downtown Norwich through multicultural events, festivals, and small business activity.”
The principal objectives of the Global City Initiative are to:
1) engage the strength of a diversity of population uniquely available in Norwich to the benefit of all,
2) to fill empty spaces in a very impactful area of Norwich, concentrated in the downtown, and
3) activate multiple different cultures into being a critical part of the resurgence of their new home community.
The overall project will occur in many phases over the next few years. Initially, the Chelsea Groton Foundation is partnering with NCDC to focus on increasing demand through cultural activities and by increasing occupancy of retail spaces downtown. Demand will increase by enhancing existing parades, ethnic food offerings, art galleries, and other special events to ensure they have a larger, more positive economic impact on the community, and by introducing new cultural celebrations in order to improve the vibrancy of Downtown Norwich. In order to increase occupancy of retail spaces, NCDC and the Chelsea Groton Foundation committee will identify the properties that should have a retail presence, determine what needs to be done to make them each viable spaces and assist entrepreneurs in getting set up in those spaces.
“NCDC is the development agency for the City of Norwich and has downtown revitalization as a key mission component” commented Bob Mills of NCDC. “This new funding and focus will add a creative new dimension to filling spaces and making Downtown more vibrant for everyone.”
The City of Norwich is proud to announce the release of the Doing Business in Norwich Guide. This guide takes a process that has not always been well defined and creates a map for businesses to follow. The guide is the culmination of a year of work between the City of Norwich, Norwich Public Utilities, NCDC and The Greater Norwich Area Chamber of Commerce.
“The City is proud to be able to collaborate to develop a process that is easily understood and better positions businesses to be able to open or expand in the City,” said Mayor Hinchey. The booklet, which has been printed, is currently available at NCDC and City Hall as well as digitally on the City, NCDC, and the Greater Norwich Area Chamber websites. This guide will assist businesses in writing a business plan and working through approval processes, to hiring employees and scheduling a ribbon cutting. (Find the guide digitally here: bit.ly/1QxyHbi)
“This is a much needed piece of the puzzle,” says Robert Mills, NCDC’s President. “We frequently have people asking about the process, which can be confusing. We want businesses to be confident with the procedure and be able to walk away with the ability to complete the project. Helping business needs a team approach and all the players need to be using the same playbook. Now that is possible.”
“We are very pleased to partner up with the City, NCDC and NPU on this guide,” says Greater Norwich Area Chamber of Commerce Chairman, Andrew Nollman. “This document is designed to help businesses navigate through those hurdles that we’ve all gone through, as the new business is getting ready to launch. Our hope is that this document helps makes that process smoother and ultimately helps more businesses have quicker success.”
This guide is now available for all businesses currently in the City and any new businesses thinking of expanding to Norwich.
One of Norwich’s best kept secrets has always been it’s minor league team at Dodd Stadium. It is a secret no more! The Connecticut Tigers a minor league affiliate of the Detroit Tigers has been named one of America’s Best Minor League Baseball Teams. How did they factor all of this you may wonder? The answer may surprise you! The authors took into account Violent Crime, Property Crime, Disposable Income, Unemployment, and Dining and Entertainment. They also looked at team win percentage, stadium experience and minor league class. Norwich came in 6th overall. We recommend you take a look at the article yourself. Congratulations Connecticut Tigers and City of Norwich!
Did you ever notice that all sports are not ‘team’ sports? Some such as boxing or skiing depend on the skills of an individual over the coordinated approach of a team like basketball or soccer (congratulations Germany on the World Cup Championship, by the way!) Did you ever think about how much different managing a team may be than an individual athlete? Team sports involve many more personalities and differences that can be much more difficult to guide than those required of a single top athlete. That is much like the difference between successful – sustained economic development growth and short term gains.
One of the key philosophies universal among high performance regions of economic development is the understanding that there may be superstars at work but, as individuals they stand little chance of changing the economic structure of a region, a city, a business park, a neighborhood, a block, or street alone. Economic development is much more of a team sport than the perfect skills of a single player.
Going it alone or as a team, what a choice! After doing this kind of work for well over a decade, we have learned that the go it alone route is hard work, frequently less than rewarding and not the way to success, especially as an organization such as NCDC or a community such as Norwich or as a region such as eastern Connecticut. That’s the reason you will see NCDC staff investing time and energy in regional initiatives that improve the situation and economy beyond the geopolitical boundaries of Norwich, the community we all have in our hearts and minds every day. To the north we are working on strengthening relationships with communities who have large plots of level land suitable for larger projects requiring larger sites than available in Norwich. To the south you may see us working with the regional economic development entity called the Southeastern Connecticut Enterprise Region, (SeCTer). SeCTer has recently been successful in securing the region as an Economic Development District (EDD) which means projects listed in the regional Comprehensive Economic Development Strategies (CEDS) are now eligible for federal funding. This is significant to Norwich with over 15 projects listed and more on the way!
We regularly work with two chambers of commerce (Eastern and Greater Norwich) and as many as four and five (Westerly, Mystic, and Windham!) at various times of the year. Why? Because we never know where the next business opportunity connection may come from AND we support business and THEIR regional networks. There are two commercial real estate groups in our area and we are working with (SeCTer CID and ECAR) and supporting their brokers who are hard at work every day siting businesses. These connections not only help with individual business opportunities but are important in helping brand Norwich as a location where the TEAM works hard on behalf of business!
Thank you to our team! In addition to the organizations and members of those mentioned above, you have a super team here in the City of Norwich and its many great departments, Norwich Police Department and the Community Police Unit, Norwich Public Utilities- the hardest working utility in Connecticut, great cultural centers here like Slater Museum, The Historical Society, The Founders Society, The Spirit of Broadway, The Leffingwell House Museum, Otis Library and others. The fact is that selling Norwich to businesses is fun and rewarding because of these organizations and their supporters.
Mostly, we thank you, the citizens and workforce of Norwich and the region. You make this place what it is and help us do our job by being here.
So it’s mid-June and we at NCDC are feeling quite good about the prospects of Economic Development in Norwich right now. How could that be with all the “vacant” building in the Business Park and all the dark storefronts in downtown and our villages? Why are we feeling positive at NCDC while the unemployment in CT continues to be among the worst in the US? What gives us feelings of coming prosperity when so many are suffering the ill effect of the worst economy most of us have ever experienced? In a word or two- owner/users, prime tenants, PSA and leasing activity.
Let’s look back just a couple months for what we see on the ground and what is reported. Remember, much of the activity NCDC is involved in is proprietary business activity until such time as it is finalized with bank loans completed, PSA’s done (sorry- Purchase and Sales Agreements for properties) and the actual businesses are prepared for the word to get out on the street. So the Business Park is reported to have a high vacancy rate by many in the general public. According to others around the northeast region, the Norwich Business Park with a vacancy fluctuating around 15-20%, we are not bad here! Nevertheless, it appears and feels problematic to many. What we see are a couple of (positive) things- First, there is good product to help owners market when we generate inquiries (recall, these are 100% privately held properties, not ours or the city’s), and Second, key activity by owners to draw in targeted buyers or tenants to their properties. We can tell you first hand that there is a lot of activity in this regard. Unfortunately, the public will not have an opportunity to know what is going on in specific properties until they transact, like earlier last year when the Dominion facility was announced on Stott Ave., and last week’s sale of 1 Wisconsin Ave. (former Thames Printing building).
Norwich Business Park
9 Wisconsin owners have put a lot of time, effort and money into re-positioning that property for a new tenant or buyer. They report that they are close on a deal there. The new owners of 1 Wisconsin are working the market hard to draw in a key tenant or two for their property and have actually begun discussions with a tenant/buyer for an expansion on that site. The long vacant Sybron Chemical building at 29 Stott Ave. has a very interested prospect that is going through a due diligence effort now.
The one property that isn’t moving and hasn’t had any bites on it is the former CliniPad building on Vergasun Ave. It is currently priced at $85/ft. where the average transaction takes place in the $35-$40/ft. range. Things are starting to feel so much better that the property behind Consumers Interstate is now on the market in three distinct sites. We like this because it is product that is entirely new to the market and invites new tax base as well as employment opportunities.
There is much happening Downtown as well. First we need to recognize the activities that have or are happening. The Bulletin moved into the handsomely renovated Railroad Station building owned by the Lord Family Trust. The Bulletin employees are ecstatic about their new environs. Also, the Harp and Dragon has opened their new 3,000 ft. rooftop deck out. Encore Justified, cool upcycle retail shop, took space on lower Main St earlier this year and is already looking to expand. Two nice mixed-use (retail and residential) properties are under rehabilitation on Broadway (50 and 60-62). A successful new operator took over the corner sandwich shop at the Wauregan Hotel, G-Bar reopened for the summer, Thayer’s Marine has expanded their retail space by adding a boathouse and new product line, and some of our ethnic restaurants, Asian Thai, Miss Saigon Vietnamese and Mi Casa Mexican are reporting that they are doing well.
As far as downtown transactions, the Fairhaven sold at the end of 2013 but the buyer had second thoughts about the challenges of working with tax credit and public financing to do the project to the maximum benefit of the downtown community. Since that time they have decided to put the property back on the market. In the spring, we recommended that the City deed the Reid and Hughes property To NCDC to facilitate a private redevelopment. That transaction has not happened, yet, and we continue to work with developers to figure out how to make that site a productive part of downtown.
We are quite positive about some indications from the market about doing that project as part of a larger development, a theme that the selected developer had preferred as well, but we continue to keep all options on the table. The former Norwich Bulletin building on Franklin Street has a very serious and experienced buyer ready to purchase it for a creative new use that could be transformative for this neighborhood.
All in all, there is some significant activity today and much of it appears to have a different level of depth, merit and capability to become a positive outcome. Until this recent batch of action came along, a vast majority of the interested parties had little or no experience at urban redevelopment, lacked equity to invest, and often lacked access to the patient capital required to make it happen. We all know not to count your chicks before they hatch, and we can assure you we are not doing that. Rather we are just providing an indication that after a long dark spell in this tough economy, there is some positive energy in the air. Clearly, we could use some more positive action in Norwich and the region!
Historical Downtown Norwich has much to offer as summer is rolling in. From good music to delicious food to unique art, anyone can find something of interest.
The Norwich Farmers’ Market is set to kick off again beginning Wednesday July 2nd from 10-2. The market will run on Wednesdays all season until October 29th. Folks can come purchase the freshest local produce and baked goods from community farmers, try yoga on the waterfront, grab lunch and enjoy a relaxing day of sunshine.
Norwich’s summer concert series is back in action as Rock the Docks is right around the corner. On Wednesdays from 6-8pm family and friends can come hear some great live music at Howard Brown Park. With the summer atmosphere in full effect, feel free to bring your own picnic or purchase dinner and a beverage from one of Norwich’s bars and restaurants.
July 9th – EasyBaby
July 16th – Eight to the Bar
July 23th – Coyote River Band
July 30th – Johnny & the East Coast Rockers
August 8th – The Fat Cats
August 13th – Melaena
Norwich’s First Friday art program is offering a special event for their August showing. On August 1st starting at 6pm come check out August’s First Friday Summer Art Festival. Galleries will be open their normal 6-9pm. There will be live music, a Worship Skateboard’s art contest, a variety of craft and specialty vendors, and enough fun for the whole family to enjoy.
Harp & Dragon recently opened their outdoor deck. Come grab a bite to eat and a drink while still enjoying the outdoor summer atmosphere. They are open for lunch, dinner and any time in between.
Movie fans will tell you that few sequels match the quality of the original. Not all seconds are second best, and that’s exactly the thinking behind the new boutique / antique shop in historic downtown Norwich: Encore Justified. Encore Justified is a whimsical double entendre, first based on the store’s upcycling premise – to reuse things (hence an encore) and then second because this is the second shop for owner Jill Fritzsche, of Canterbury.
We first met Jill in 2012, during the Connecticut Small Business Development Center’s entrepreneur classes at Three Rivers Community College. At that time she was successfully running an antique shop along scenic Route 169 in Canterbury and was looking to develop some additional business skills. When a storefront decorating opportunity arose, we invited Jill to display her wares in the City. We knew that she had good taste, and figured she could add some vibrancy to the empty windows as 102 Main Street.
Over the course of the next year, we talked with Jill about her business goals, about the emergence of a dining / entertainment scene in historic Downtown and about how she might fit into the city’s latest renewal efforts. It is also important to note that a key part of this process was an engaged property owner that was willing to think creatively. First, to allow us to program the space for decorating purposes, and then to work with Jill on lease terms that would enable her to occupy the space. Jill is currently holding off on having an official grand opening until the road construction is complete. Until that time, you can still check her out in the shop, and: facebook.com/encorejustified
Hundreds of kids and their parents came out Saturday, April 19th for the Second Annual Spring Egg Hunt at Howard Brown Park. Participants wrapped the edges of the 2-4 year age group waiting for the official go at 11:00, then, they were off! Following the youngest age group the 5-9 year olds and the 10 and up age group also got a chance to find some eggs. Thanks to a group of community volunteers, 1200 eggs were stuffed in the NCDC office the previous Tuesday.
In addition to the egg hunt, the City of Norwich Fire Department was there with Touch-A-Truck, the Greater Norwich Area Chamber of Commerce had free face painting, the Young Marines were there with the Easter Bunny and the City of Norwich Community Police stopped by with gifts for the kids and passed out baskets to the lucky individuals who found a golden egg!
Brochures that listed all of the Downtown Norwich eateries showing some family friendly food options and pricing were passed out to attendees to illustrate all of the amazing food options Downtown has. An 11:00 start means that the hunt will be over and kids will be ready for lunch, and what is better than being able to walk there!
Thanks to everyone who participated for helping to show that Downtown Norwich is a beautiful, family friendly place to spend an enjoyable afternoon! Didn’t make the Egg Hunt? Bring the kids down for some fishing off the docks (and of course some lunch at one of our wonderful restaurants)!
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a place in Norwich where you could walk around, hit two or three art galleries displaying works by local artists, get a bite to eat and perhaps catch a show? Well there is. Downtown Norwich has it all and it gets put on display the first Friday of every month. First Friday is a common term for various public events held in cities around the globe that occur on the first Friday of every month. These city-wide events may take on many purposes, including art gallery openings as well as social and political networking. Additionally, these are “see and be seen” events that serve as a block party or social gathering open to the general public. In many cities these events may involve pub crawling, street performances and more. First Friday Norwich began in October of 2000. It was organized under the direction of Lisa Marien of the Norwich Arts Council to kick off the opening of the Donald Oat Theatre and the NAC Gallery. More recently First Friday Norwich has gotten a facelift and serves to help support Economic Development in the City.
First Friday Better Than Ever
Recently a new group has gotten together to bring First Friday Norwich back and better than ever! Representatives from the Norwich Arts Council, Reliance House and Wauregan Gallery as well as outside agencies like Artreach, The Norwich Rose and Norwich Community Development Corporation gather to plan upcoming First Friday Activities. The key is making sure people know what is happening and where. To get the word out the group has started a website FirstFridayNorwich.com which is updated monthly with gallery exhibits, musical events, theatre productions, movies and places you can get a bite to eat or grab a cold beer. There is also a facebook page facebook.com/FristFridaysNorwich where participants post things going on at their business. “Being on the First Friday committee is fun and inspiring,” says Becca Atkins of Artreach. “I enjoy the positive energy of the group. There is some great brainstorming going on, followed by action, and I am excited about the future of the arts in Downtown Norwich.”
First Friday Art Tour
One of the first activities this committee did as a group was to host a Walktober event with Last Green Valley ‘First Friday Art Tour”. What is great anout Downtown Norwich is that the venues are all relatively close together and make for an enjoyable stroll. The tour began at Chacers Bar and Grill on Franklin Street where participants had a cold beverage and a delicious bite to eat while listening to acoustic guitarist Matthew Pirie. They moved on walking past the Spirit of Broadway Theatre and were able pick up brochures about upcoming shows and stopped in at Billy Wilsons Aging Still on Broadway to listen to guitar and singing by Ronald LaBonte. The group crossed the street to the Norwich Arts Council to view the showing of In the Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness, then down the street to the Reliance House Gallery, over to the Wauregan Gallery (also featuring In the Pink artwork where all proceeds went to the Breast Health Task Force of Southeastern CT) and finished off at the Harp and Dragon on Main Street. As well as learning about all the treasures Downtown has to offer, participants learned about the history of the buildings along the way. Most of fourteen participants were from outside of Norwich, two from as far away as Vermont. The attendees had a great time, enjoyed the galleries and many of them had dinner downtown after the event. “First Friday is one of the better evenings of the month to come to Downtown,” says Paul Siefert of Billy Wilson’s Aging Still. “It brings arts and culture to the City and you get a flavor for what the Downtown has to offer.”
The Norwich Arts Center or NAC was originally founded as the Norwich Arts Council in 1987 by a group of local artists and patrons who were inspired by the area’s possibilities. In 1995 they purchased 60-64 Broadway which they had been leasing as a gallery space for NAC and regional artists and turned the third floor space into the Donald Oat Theater. Their mission is to inspire and provide community affordable music, arts and education to the Greater Norwich Region in partnership with others interested in strengthening the fabric of the region. With the addition of the theater and the Norwich Arts Council’s Gallery on the first floor, Norwich Arts Council became the Center for the Arts in Norwich offering art, music and theatrical productions on Broadway in downtown. In preparation for their 2000-2001 season the committee was challenged to make downtown Norwich a destination point for the Norwich residents. The long standing Norwich Arts Council Gallery opening on the first Friday of each month, featuring a different NAC Cooperative artist, seemed to be the logical partnership. In October of 2000 “First Friday at the NAC” became a reality. The arts council combined the opening at the NAC Gallery with its initial jazz offering in the Donald L. Oat Theater. The music event was titled “First Friday Coffeehouse”. Since conception NAC has featured Grammy Award winning jazz musicians from all over the country as well as local bands and groups.
The NAC gallery hosts some amazing artists. Carol Dunn is an Elected Artist at the gallery as well as a First Friday Committee member and was featured on the December cover of Ink Magazine. She was also recently commissioned to help enhance, through art, Hotel Chandler in New York City. Matthew Cassar another of NAC’s artists had a January showing at the gallery. Matthew who has had showings as far away as Shanghai, China draws inspiration from the Dark ages as well as the Renaissance period. These artisits as well as the others that show at the Norwich Arts Center should not be missed!
Reliance House, Inc. is a non-profit mental health organization that has been located in downtown Norwich since 1976. Throughout the years, the agency has contributed to the versatility of the city by providing a variety of evolving mental health services along with community based businesses such as a thrift store, laundromat, landscaping services and a restaurant. Most recently, downtown interactions take the form of a monthly open Gallery for Norwich First Fridays. The Gallery originally developed as a means to showcase art created by Reliance House service recipients as facilitated by ARTWorks creative therapy sessions. By opening the Gallery for First Friday events, new partnerships and networks were established, thus expanding the vision and purpose of the Reliance House Gallery. Dedicated to the success of First Fridays, Reliance House employees have assisted with the rejuvenation of the First Friday Committee along with other local interested parties. Currently, the monthly showings consist of works created not only by agency members and staff but by budding and established local artists as well. To encourage all who are interested to participate, use of the space is free of charge and supported by on-site staff for the evening of the event. “The Gallery opens the door to share in the arts but additionally provides a gateway to talk about the services Reliance House has to offer and share our collective community goals,” says Carrie Dyer of Reliance House. For more information, contact Carrie at email@example.com or visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/RelianceHouse.
Recent showings at the Reliance House Gallery have featured Artreach, Inc., a non-profit that promotes recovery for adults with psychiatric disorders through creativity, had a beautiful Holiday Wreath Sale in December. The January artist was Rick Sicard who also has a painting included in the January 25th showing at the Hygenic in New London.
The Gallery at the Wauregan opened two years ago and is owned and operated by Dan Topalis a Norwich born artist who has had shows at the Southern Allegany Museum, Philadelphia Cultural Society, the Agora Gallery NYC and the Hygienic in New London just to name a few. He wanted to create a place for people in the community. The gallery does not charge fees of any sort, or judge the work. “If an artist sells work they get 100% of the sales,” says Toplais “the gallery takes nothing. The gallery gives an opportunity for artists who would otherwise not be able to show work.” He runs the gallery on his own with some help from volunteers. His art is displayed in the gallery and draws his inspiration from society. “Portraits are inspired by people. I just pick the one to me with the story in their face. My new ‘Orbs’ series just comes from my head.” His gallery offers a glimpse into how the arts can help transform the Downtown by helping to fill formally vacant spaces.
The Gallery at the Wauregan features many artists work giving them a launching pad to their own shows. In December Topalis featured a painting of Rick Sicard’s and helped him launch a private show in the Reliance House Gallery in January. Another artist featured at the Waureagan Gallery is pottery by Elizabeth Braddock which can also be purchased through the gallery and is not to be missed.
What First Friday Means for Norwich
“Fun events, such as Norwich’s First Fridays, provide the city with an opportunity to reveal itself in a creative, positive light,” says Norwich Community Development Vice President Jason Vincent. “In doing so, there is a chance to change some of the perceptions and misconceptions that people have about the city. Attendees will find plenty of parking, the event is safe, and it is a fun and festive atmosphere. All of those aspects can help the city build momentum in transforming the functionality of downtown from a place of business, to a place of vitality.” And there is plenty of parking, with 6 parking garages downtown and 520 on street parking spots, Downtown Norwich can accommodate large crowds of revilers, but for Norwich First Friday could mean more. Communities across the country have begun to realize that investing in the arts can play a big role in economic growth. These investments produce both short -term and long-term benefits, for example those who attend arts events spend money in the community at both the art showing and related activities such as going to a local restaurant or bar, having an effect on local employment and income which leads to increased tax revenue. A longer-term benefit would be that the arts generally attract highly skilled workers to an area which helps to raise the income levels in a community.
Future of First Friday Norwich
Looking to the future, the First Friday Committee meets every three weeks at one of the partner locations to talk about upcoming events and work together to make future First Friday great. They currently list all of the downtown eating establishments on their website but are planning on meeting with the downtown restaurant and bar owners to figure out how to best tie them into the First Friday festivities. They are also interested in finding spaces Downtown other art groups from Norwich could use for the evening of First Friday to bring other art forms to the event as well as make Downtown Norwich a destination once again for patrons of the arts as well as individuals just looking to have an exciting evening out. What is certain for First Friday Norwich is that the future is looking bright. People who rarely came down for First Fridays in the past are becoming regulars and there are more new people every month. One point the group wants people to keep in mind is that if you happen to miss the First Friday event; the galleries maintain the exhibit all month long can be seen at your leisure or again and again. For more information about First Friday Norwich visit their website or like them on Facebook. Events are updated monthly and other activities outside of First Friday are listed on the calendar on the website.