The Day – Norwich YMCA redevelopment project hits funding snag

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Norwich – A $4million plan to redevelop the former YMCA on Main Street into the new headquarters of a Baltic construction company suffered a setback, when the city recently learned it would not receive the requested federal environmental cleanup grant of $850,000 for the long-vacant building.

The city received a $2 million grant from the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development earlier this spring, an award celebrated by a visit from Governor Ned Lamont, who walked into the dilapidated building damaged by years of weather leaks and vandals.

Mattern Construction of Baltic submitted the only bid in response to a request for development proposals after the city took possession of the building last summer. The YMCA at 337 Main Street closed suddenly in April 2009 and has remained derelict ever since, becoming a highly visible dilapidated property at the entrance to downtown.

Mattern plans to demolish a rear portion of the building to create a parking lot, leaving a horseshoe-shaped structure to become the commercial construction company’s new headquarters. Additional space will be marketed for a restaurant, café and sandwich shop or brasserie.

The company’s vice president, Eric Mattern, said Wednesday that the setback had not deterred the family business from the project.

“On our side and on the city side, we’re both still very excited and optimistic that we can make this work,” Mattern said Wednesday.

The Matterns meet weekly with city officials and representatives of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state’s DECD, said Kevin Brown, chairman of the Norwich Community Development Corp.

Brown said the project may qualify for another EPA grant, or the city may seek approval to use part of the state’s $2 million development grant for the cleanup. The money had been spent on the renovation project itself, not cleaning up the environment, Brown said. That would leave a funding hole for the project, however, Brown said.

The developer invests $500,000 in equity in the project and obtains $700,000 in loan financing. The city’s contribution is the building and the land, which will be donated to Mattern free of charge.

“We’re going to get across the finish line one way or another,” Brown said.

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