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Take the long view of the Norwich Hospital redevelopment effort

By SEAN NUGENT

Publication: The Day

Published July 28. 2013 4:00AM
Sean D. Elliot The Day
More than 30 of the 55 buildings at the former Norwich State Hospital in Preston Thursday have been abated or demolished as cleanup there proceeds.

I write in response to the July 17 editorial, "Preston's Burden," regarding Preston Riverwalk. I take exception to The Day's comments as it demonstrates narrow, short-term thinking, rather than a long-term, sustainable perspective relative to Preston and the former Norwich Hospital property.

Preston's vision for developing the property has always been for it to be sustainable, provide job creation, diversify the town's Grand List and benefit Preston, the neighboring communities, our region and the state.

It has always been articulated that this will take time, with the estimate being at least 10 years before significant development is achieved. The state officially closed the property in 1996 and did absolutely nothing to perserve the buildings or secure development at the site over a period of 13 years. Preston, realizing that managing our own destiny was better than standing by waiting for something to happen, purchased the property and established the Preston Redevelopment Agency (PRA) to oversee the development of the property in 2009.

This group of dedicated town volunteers has secured significant funding and hired Manafort Brothers (MBI) to handle those efforts that have resulted in 32 of the original 55 structures being abated and demolished. Following a failed request for proposal process - the analysis of which indicated that the environmental contamination presented a significant hurdle - the PRA hired Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) to agrresively advertise and market the property.

In addition, after a 16-year absence by the state, the administration of Gov. Malloy has provided significant support to progress the cleanup and demolition effort and more rapidly create a "clean, shovel-ready" site to offer the developer community.

While we recognize that the ultimate metric is the sale to a developer, The Day's lack of recognition that securing a developer to this site requires time, money and community effort is disturbing. Instead the metric seemed only to be the sale of land.

Your editorial was short-sighted and served as an affront to a community that has accomplished much in four years.

The Day should put on some long-term glasses and look to the future, instead of focusing on short-sighted and unrealistic expectations of instant success.

Sean Nugent is the chairman of the Preston Redevelopment Agency.

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