ATTORNEY GENERAL TONG ANNOUNCES SETTLEMENT WITH DEVELOPERS FOR REHABILITATION OF MAIN STREET WILLIMANTIC HISTORIC DISTRICT
Attorney General William Tong today announced a negotiated settlement agreement between the state and two property developers to preserve the historic Nathan Hale Hotel building and enhance the Main Street Historic District in Willimantic.
The agreement with RUC Holdings, LLC and 819-833 Main Street, LLC, also includes the State Department of Economic and Community Development, (DECD) State Historic Preservation Office.
The settlement calls for rehabilitation of the brick Hale Hotel at 833 Main Street, incorporating it into a new development, and permits demolition of the wood-frame Hooker Hotel at 819 Main Street because deterioration of the structure makes its preservation neither prudent nor feasible. Both buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places as contributing resources to the Main Street Historic District.
DECD’s State Historic Preservation Council requested the Office of the Attorney General to assist in this matter. The OAG initiated discussions with the developers and others to review economic development issues and to explore options for the properties other than demolition.
"This agreement marks a new day for Main Street—allowing new, positive development while preserving an important part of Willimantic's history. The settlement permits the revitalization of the Main Street Historic District, while preserving a structure significant to state history. I am grateful that each side was able to come together to find a common ground that benefits all,” said Attorney General Tong. “My office is committed to working collaboratively to preserve Connecticut’s historic resources. I want to specifically thank Assistant Attorney General Alan Ponanski who did great work bringing all sides together to reach this positive outcome."
“I was proud to be able to help bring businesspeople, local and state leaders together. Our administration has an open door policy for mayors and first selectmen who need the state’s assistance in various matters and it’s great to see that in this case, everyone was able to agree upon a plan of action,” said Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz. “The end result of this settlement agreement is a significant reinvestment in one of our state’s walkable downtowns, which will reinforce its historic character and introduce new energy and vibrancy to attract young people to our state."
“I am thrilled that an agreement has been reached to move our Main Street District forward,” said Senator Mae Flexer (D-Danielson). "This development is critical to the revitalization of our downtown. So many business owners and community leaders have worked hard to get us here today. I want to thank Attorney General Tong for his hard work finding consensus on this vital project and his commitment to our town.”
“I want to thank Attorney General Tong and his staff for working hard to find common ground between the needs of our municipality, the developer and the State Historic Preservation Office. This project means a great deal to the future of Downtown Willimantic. The agreement brings us to a new economic era for our town and at the same time, it continues to preserve our rich, interesting, complex history,” said State Representative Susan Johnson (D – Windham).
“The negotiation with the current property owner to effect a different outcome than the position presented at the Council’s March 6th meeting is tremendously good news,” said Historic Preservation Council Chair Sara O. Nelson. "The information presented at our meeting indicated an extremely difficult set of circumstances with a complicated dynamic between the municipality, the property owner, and the public trust."
"We are appreciative of the Attorney General's help with this project. It is the biggest project in a century on Main Street in Windham and we appreciate the help of the Attorney General," said Windham Town Manager Jim Rivers.
“Willimantic is a place with great potential. We are excited to work with the Town of Windham and to play our small part in the Town’s effort to revitalize Willimantic and Windham by creating more opportunities to make Willimantic a vibrant downtown in which to work, live and play," said developer Martin Kelly.
The agreement also allows the demolition of a garage located behind the Hale Hotel at 833 Main Street. In the event the developers acquire parcels from the Savings Institute, the agreement requires developers to rehabilitate the Marble Front Block, located at 789 Main Street and the Savings Institute, located at 803 Main Street, by incorporating the buildings into a new development.
The agreement further requires the developers to construct new buildings at the vacant or to-be-vacant land at 767, 769, and 779 Main Street, and 14 and 18 Bank Street (property currently owned by the Savings Institute), 804 Main Street (property currently owned by the town), and 819 and rear of 833 Main Street (owned by 819-833 Main Street, LLC). No state or federal funding will be used.
The Nathan Hale Hotel was built in 1926 to accommodate Willimantic’s burgeoning early 20th century mill business and railroad junction in the Age of Rail. It was built through a community fund raising effort to meet a large demand for hotel and cultural facilities. The grand Georgian-style hotel was considered one of the finest hotels in eastern Connecticut.
Assistant Attorney General Alan N. Ponanski assisted the Attorney General in this matter.