Norwich, Conn. - The message painted across the back wall of Norwichtown Commons' PetSense store could have been affixed by city leaders themselves.
"Proud to be in Norwich, Connecticut," it proclaims. And the city, Mayor Peter Nystrom says, is just as happy to have them there.
In July 2011, Concord, Mass.-based Winstanley Enterprises laid out $15.75 million to purchase the languid Town Street Norwichtown Mall, promising to transform the site into a full shopping plaza.
Today, nearly all the stores are occupied, and the city is bolstering its grand list through the Commons' continued growth.
"It helps to stabilize the concept of people choosing Norwich," Nystrom said. The site is "the gateway into the heart of the city that takes you right through downtown."
In 2012, the site had an assessed value of $9.2 million, according to tax records. Tenants include Dollar Tree, Dress Barn, Fancy Nails, GNC and the Hair Cuttery. Lucky Star, a Chinese restaurant, is set to open shortly, along with Big Lots and Planet Fitness.
Last year, the 73,000-square-foot Stop & Shop, which anchors the mall, renewed a 10-year lease for its location. Big Lots and Planet Fitness will share 50,000 square feet of space on the other end.
Winstanley has committed $7.5 million for the site's renovation, which is expected to bring 75 new full-time retail jobs along with 300 temporary construction jobs.
Winstanley officials did not return calls seeking comment.
As surrounding communities like Lisbon, Montville and Waterford have lured major retail development over the years, city residents like Nancy Gillis watched in frustration as the former Norwichtown Mall stood largely empty.
"I'm happy to see the mall revitalized. I've been seeing all these other towns getting the benefit of malls, and we've been bypassed," Gillis said as she watched a large white Persian cat being groomed at the newly opened PetSense.
Built in the mid-1960s on a former Yantic River watershed, the Norwichtown Mall was a relic by industry standards - a 220,000-square-foot enclosed shopping area with cavernous hallways.
With a population of 66,675 within a seven-mile radius of the mall, developers capitalized on the commuter market by shrinking the plaza's footprint to 160,000 square feet and providing direct parking lot access to all stores.
Norwich Community Development Corp. Vice President Jason Vincent said that's an important component of the project.
"What retailers have found is that people want to park very close to the facility they're going to, and large, indoor malls are complicated to get around," he said.
When NCDC President Robert Mills is pressed for examples of economic growth in the city, he brings up the image of boaters sitting in the San Francisco Bay just beyond the right field wall of AT&T Park.
When home runs are hit into the water, they scramble to get the balls. But singles and doubles are responsible for most runs that are scored - not as high-profile as the homers, but just as vital to success in the game.
But highly visible projects like the mall upgrade are essential if the city hopes to compete for more big business, Nystrom said.
"The patience was worth it, absolutely," he said of the project. Developer Adam Winstanley "is a great example of someone who had the conviction to take that step, follow through and reach completion. That route takes people into ever other part of the city, and it's critical they see a vital, active development."
Vincent said the new look should allow Norwichtown Commons to compete with other large-scale retail offerings in the region.
"They repositioned the mall to take advantage of what was in the regional marketplace and recast the facility based on what the demand was. When it was the Norwichtown Mall, a lot of those things had grown out of fancy with consumers," he said.
Gillis stopped at Norwichtown Commons on Saturday for the first time, curious to see the progress firsthand.
"It's really, really nice. I'm pleasantly surprised," she said. "It's been sad the mall has gone down so much. "It's good to see revitalization in Norwich."
Shelly Johnson, of Franklin, left the 9,000-square-foot Dollar Tree on Thursday with two armfuls full of purchases. She said she visits the store at least once a week.
"This is definitely better than what was here two years ago," Johnson said. "It's easier to come here than it is to go all the way to Willimantic or the west side of Norwich."
WARWICK, R.I. Ñ The Rhode Island Mall's new owners say they plan to "breathe new life" into the property that has been mostly vacant since April 2011.
Winstanley Enterprises, of Concord, Mass., and Surrey Equities, of New York, announced on Thursday that they purchased the 450,000 square-foot property in Warwick from a Florida company for $38 million.
Adam Winstanley, of Winstanley Enterprises, said in a statement that they are putting together a plan to position the mall as a vibrant part of Warwick's retail hub.
They plan to redesign the mall's interior to create larger spaces for anchor tenants.
Standalone space on the property is occupied by Sears, Walmart, and Kohls.
The mall opened in 1967 as the Midland Mall.
Norwich - The dozens of business representatives, residents and city officials who walked into the former Norwichtown Mall for the last time Thursday thought back to their past favorite stores - Debutant, Beebe's Dairy, Caldor and Waldenbooks, among others.
But the mood wasn't somber or nostalgic but cheerful and excited, as the new mall owner displayed several poster boards with renderings of what will be the reconstructed Norwichtown Commons.
"This is exciting, jobs coming to Norwich," Human Services Director Beverly Goulet said.
More than 50 people gathered inside what used to be the main entrance into the Caldor department store to hear Adam Winstanley of Winstanley Enterprises LLC describe the $7.5 million project to tear down the center portion of the mall and replace it with a smaller plaza with stores that will each have their own entrances.
"As soon as everyone clears out of here," Winstanley said, "we're going to start knocking down the mall."
The project will bring about 350 construction jobs to the city and about 75 permanent jobs once the stores open, he said.
Winstanley Enterprises LLC of Concord, Mass., purchased the mostly vacant mall from Edens & Avant Investment Limited Partnership for $15.75 million last July and received permit approval a month later for the reconstruction plan.
The economy cannot support mid-size malls that once thrived in communities such as Norwich, Winstanley said. With Internet shopping growing, Winstanley and partner Surrey Equities couldn't find interest in the 100,000-square-foot former Caldor building at the end of the mall. So plans call for cutting that space in half, to 50,000 square feet, and marketing it to two "junior anchor stores" expected to be announced soon.
Overall, the size of the mall will be reduced from 300,000 square feet to about 168,000 square feet, Winstanley said. Phase one of construction will cover the section from the existing Dress Barn Store, already renovated, to the former Caldor space and is expected to be completed by Christmas.
Phase two, the reconstruction of the former Caldor space, is expected to start in the summer and be completed in early 2013.
Signed leases for the first phase include the existing Stop & Shop, which just signed a 10-year lease extension, and Dress Barn, as well as the return of Dollar Tree and Fancy Nails and a new PetSense, Hair Cuttery and Chinese restaurant.
Thousands of apartments, condos, cottages and lofts are coming to this suburb north of Hartford - and all of the housing is to be set in the heart of the town's sprawling corporate office corridor.
Called Great Pond Village, the $1 billion development is intended to give employees who now drive an average 35 minutes to work at the Day Hill Road office park the opportunity to ditch the commute altogether.
The idea is to "create the old New England village where we have a walkable, mixed-use village center," and enough housing choices to accommodate a variety of age groups, said David Winstanley, a principal with the developer, Winstanley Enterprises of Concord, Mass. The company is working in partnership with the property owner, ABB, a Swiss corporation specializing in power and automation technologies.
About 80 percent of Windsor's current residential stock is single-family homes, according to Peter Souza, the town manager. Some corporate employers have complained that the lack of housing diversity hurts their efforts to recruit younger workers.
"The town hasn't seen a new rental complex in more than 30 years," Mr. Souza said.
The development will mark the renewal of a 653-acre site that has undergone an intensive cleanup over the past decade for radiological and chemical contamination.
Beginning in the 1950s, Combustion Engineering performed research, development and manufacturing of nuclear fuel on the property under a contract with the Atomic Energy Commission. ABB acquired Combustion Engineering in 1990, and took on the lengthy cleanup process.
The final phase of remediation began in August 2009, and ABB anticipates spending a total of $140 million by the time the cleanup is complete, according to Bob Fesmire, a corporate spokesman. The company must satisfy standards set by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the state Department of Environmental Protection. About half the site was declared free of any contamination.
The thriving Day Hill Road office corridor provides some 20,000 jobs in a range of industries, including finance, insurance and transportation. Office buildings and service plazas line either side of the broad boulevard, save for a stretch taken up by fields of shade tobacco, a crop used for cigar wrappers. The approved master plan for Great Pond Village - named for a 20-acre pond on the property - calls for 4,010 new housing units (about half rentals), and 853,000 square feet of commercial space, including 85,000 square feet of neighborhood-style retail.
About half of the acreage in the development will become parks, or be set aside as conservation land. In particular, some 200 acres in the northern portion of the site, which borders the Farmington River and a 500-acre public park, will be left undisturbed.
The size of the project promises a significant expansion of Windsor's roughly 28,500-strong population, but the growth will be gradual. The project has a timeline of 14 to 20 years.
"This is a very forward-thinking land-use pattern," Mr. Souza said. "We're trying to look out over a longer horizon."
A study conducted by TischlerBise, a Maryland consulting firm, determined that tax revenues generated by the development will exceed town-borne costs for emergency services, schools and infrastructure by as much as $43 million over 20 years.
Windsor is one of a growing number of towns using high-density development to address problems like overburdened highways, unaffordable housing, suburban sprawl and dwindling numbers of young people.
Other towns have sought to place such development near mass transit, which is lacking at the 1970s-era Day Hill zone. Yet by putting housing within that zone, Windsor will help decrease auto dependence in the state capital region by making it easier for people to live near their workplaces, said David Kooris, the director of the Connecticut office of the Regional Plan Association, a tristate group.
Ideally, he added, the town would never have developed "this massive office corridor that sucked the life out of Hartford. But the reality is, all that office space is not going to go anywhere."
Windsor does have an Amtrak rail station with limited commuter-rail service. Long-term plans for high-speed rail service linking New Haven, Hartford and Springfield, over the Massachusetts border, may eventually result in shuttle service between Windsor's station and the Day Hill area, Mr. Souza said.
Mr. Winstanley says developers will initially pay for any needed public road and utility improvements. The legislature has granted the project Special Taxing District authority, so bonds may be issued after new buildings go on the tax rolls, and 50 percent of the property tax allocation will go to retire the bonds.
The first phase, which could be under way as soon as 2012, will include 400 housing units, Mr. Winstanley said.
He acknowledged that the poor economy could slow the project's progress, but said that housing market conditions might also work in its favor.
"I think there's going to be more people who can't afford houses or condos," he said. "And more people moving out of their houses because they can no longer afford them."
The Norwichtown Mall has been sold for $15.75 million and its new owner plans to partially demolish it as part of a $7.5 million redevelopment aimed at making the shopping center smaller and more attractive.
Concord, Mass.-based Winstanley Enterprises LLC on Friday completed purchase of the mall from Edens and Avant, NorwichBulletin.com first reported Monday. Rebuilding is scheduled to be completed six to nine months after demolition, Norwich Community Development Corp. Executive Director Bob Mills said. "Their plans are very aggressive," he said.
Site work is slated to begin Oct. 1, creating 150 construction jobs, principal Adam Winstanley said Monday. The portion that will be torn down, which is a little more than half of the existing structure, will be rebuilt with shop windows facing the parking lot. Entrances to most of the mall's stores are indoors.
Mall will shrink
The mall's overall size will be reduced to 155,000 square feet from the current 230,000, the company and NCDC said in a joint press release.
"We think it's a great site, but it's tired," Adam Winstanley said. "We want to put a new facade on it and breathe some new life into the place."
New York-based Silvera Asset Group is partnering with Winstanley with Silvera handling leasing and Winstanley managing permitting and development, Adam Winstanley said.
"We've worked with them before," he said. "It's a good company. We have a strong partnership."
Mayor Peter Nystrom released a letter Monday in which he praised the project.
"Over the past several years, we have recognized the need for improvements to the center and were therefore pleased when we reviewed your redevelopment plans," Nystrom's June 30 letter to Adam Winstanley says. "We feel confident that this project will inject new life into the center while maintaining its existing character."
Winstanley praised the cooperation it's getting from city agencies.
"All things considered, we have a very positive feeling about this investment," Adam Winstanley said.
The Town Street mall is one of Norwich's most visible shopping properties, home to a Stop & Shop supermarket and Dress Barn, but has fallen on hard times in recent years, with troubles attracting and retaining tenants. Stop & Shop, Dress Barn and GNC Nutrition are being retained as tenants, Winstanley said.
The Norwichtown Mall deal is the second recent big-ticket purchase of a large, lackluster Norwich asset. Another Massachusetts company, Plymouth-based Joyal Capital Management, agreed to buy The Marina at American Wharf for $750,000 earlier this month.
'We are blessed'
Winstanley has other holdings in Connecticut and a "top-shelf" reputation, Mills said.
"I'm thrilled," the NCDC director said. "We are blessed to have them. It's going to be a great project."
Mills noted that finding a developer with the track record and assets to see the project through to completion should excite Eastern Connecticut shoppers, as well as Norwich residents and taxpayers.
"(Winstanley) sets things up for the future," Mills said. "We need to have these kinds of projects in the best capable hands. And now we have that."
Winstanley paid $196,875 in conveyance tax as a result of the transaction, according to records on file in the city clerk's office. The company hasn't filed for demolition permits, said Darlene Fedus-Papineau, administrative secretary in the Norwich zoning office.
Founded in 1973 by David Winstanley, the company is run by David, along with his two sons, Carter and Adam. It has office, industrial and retail holdings in several towns in Connecticut, including Berlin, Bloomfield, Orange and Rocky Hill, according to Winstanley's website.
(Norwich, CT) Winstanley Enterprises LLC of Concord, MA in conjunction with Silvera Asset Group of New York, have closed on the purchase of the Norwichtown Mall. Long considered a critical component in the revitalization of Norwich, Adam Winstanley, a member of the leadership team of the Winstanley family-owned enterprise, shared "that while our acquisition and redevelopment plan is aggressive in timing and scope, we are entering into this project with great confidence in the Norwich Community and the property".
Mr. Winstanley acknowledged the exceptionally positive reception he and his firm received from the City of Norwich, beginning with an early June meeting with Mayor Peter Nystrom and a team the Mayor assembled. At the table were representatives from Norwich Planning Department, the City Manager's office, Norwich Public Utilities and Norwich Community Development Corporation. "This initial reception to Norwich was hugely important," conveyed Winstanley. "In Norwich, we found a very open and professional attitude towards development and what we wanted to do with the site. Not all communities are so welcoming to developers."
Creating 150 construction jobs, the project will total over $23 million once it is completed, which includes moving from and enclosed mall to an open center with a new facade, upgrades to signage and landscaping, a new courtyard for customers to enjoy with new shops and restaurants around it. "Built more than 40 years ago, the current Mall is a very tired asset," explained Winstanley. "However, it is in a good location, and a vital resource to a major population center. All things considered, we have a very positive feeling for this investment."
The Winstanley plan calls for Stop and Shop, Dress Barn and GNC Nutrition to stay on with additional leasing activity that the Winstanley team reports as going "extremely well." The overall footprint will be reduced from about 230,000 to 155,000 square feet, much more appropriate for the site and current market activity.
Mayor Nystrom said he is "pleased that such a strong performer in their markets has chosen Norwich for their first entre into eastern Connecticut. They are an outstanding organization, with a great reputation for delivering quality projects to the communities they choose to work within. We look forward to them taking on the Norwichtown Mall and making it a place for the community to be proud of, once again."
Winstanley expects to have a public presentation prior to the end of the summer to explain their redevelopment concepts and outline the types of retail mix they are working on attracting to the project.
Further information and updates may be accessed via askncdc.com or by calling Norwich Community Development Corporation at 860.887.6964.
Developers presented a plans for development of the 600-plus acre residential, commercial and recreational property to the town council and planning and zoning committee Wednesday night.
One way to attract big businesses and and a strong workforce to the area is to build a town customized to fit their needs - a town complete with residential units that range from classic, single-family homes to studio apartments for rent above retail shops, and eateries designed to attract patrons from near and far, located within walking distance of sprawling recreational facilities and open space.
That's what Massachusetts-based company Winstanley Enterprises and ABB plan to build in Windsor. With the development and transition of ABB's off of Day Hill Road into Great Pond Village, the two companies and town officials are hoping to allow the town to remain competitive as a potential home for employers and their employees while maintaining the current property tax base, to which property owners contribute 30 to 40 cents on every dollar the town makes, according to Town Manager Peter Souza.
Both Winstanley and ABB addressed the town council and the planning and zoning committee on Wednesday, presenting a concept plan for a development like no other in the area.
The proposed 653-acre development would include:
- 4,010 residential units, including multifamily homes, condos and rental units, and single-family attached and stand alone homes for sale.
- a projected population of 7,847 residents upon completion (including 720 children who could attend Windsor Public Schools).
- 640,000 square feet of small business and corporate office space.
- 85,000 square feet of retail space.
- Connection to the Farmington River and Northwest Park trails
- State of the art technology (broadband wireless access, community intranet and energy efficiency)
- 355 acres of open space, recreational space or natural preserve (including small, neighborhood parks throughout the development).
- A pedestrian-oriented market district with small retailers, restaurants and an active market house (year-round farmer's market).
"This is not a gated community," said David Winstanley of Winstanley. "It's a unique project unlike anything in the area... In New England people tend to build small developments with little risk. This is a big risk... We know the potential is there, and we think we have the right piece of land to do it on."
One of the major reasons the risk is worth taking, according to Jim Burke, economic development director for the town, is the need to attract the people businesses are looking to hire: young professionals.
"If we don't do something like this... It's more likely that we'll lose companies," Burke said.
The reason for the potential loss of Windsor companies is the inability to find a large, qualified workforce nearby, said Burke. Winstanley added to Burke's assessment of Windsor's attractiveness to young professionals, saying that people move to either Manchester or Middletown after graduating from college. Windsor's lack of rental properties is tha largest contributing factor, added Burke.
"Workers who are coming out of college need a place to live," said Burke. "Over 68 percent of housing in Windsor is owner occupied. We haven't built a rental project in Windsor in 35 years."
The property, to be built on the former engineering and development site that was once Combustion Engineering, would be completed over a 14 to 20 year span.
According to a December 2010 Hartford Business article, the project would cost $750 million; however, it was revealed during the town council meeting Wednesday night that the town would not be responsible for bonds issued to fund the project.
In addition, a financial study commissioned by Winstanley and ABB and conducted by TischlerBise, Inc., a national group that analyses cost growth and revenue enhancement issues, found that the project would yield approximately $2 million annually to the town.
Inflation was not taken into account in the study, however, the study did find that "projected revenues are sufficient to pay for capital improvements," which would come in the form of a new fire station and apparatus, new police station or substation and vehicles, and additional seats for added students, all needed to serve the growing population in town, according to TischlerBise principal Julie Herlands.
According to town documents, the former Combustion Engineering property, located off of Day Hill Road and used in the company's production of fuel for nuclear power plants and development of fossil fuel technologies, has undergone an intensive cleanup program over the past 15 years.
The cleanup process is expected to be completed this year, according to ABB's Web page dedicated to the cleanup effort. According to the site, the cleanup is on track to meet local farming standards, making it suitable for a person to "live on the site and be able to get water and grow food on the site safely for 40 years."