Wednesday, January 26, 2011

No More Stuck on "Ready"

Someone told me that if all the plans on economic revitalization of Norwich were laid end to end, they would stretch halfway across the equator but never reach a conclusion. With temperatures the way they've been this winter, there's a certain appeal to that whole idea.

But as of today, we need to be able to move on. We're all familiar with the three phases, 'ready,' 'set' and 'go.' For a lot of us, Norwich spends too much time at 'ready.' As of today, start your reading glasses. The "Downtown Norwich Revitalization Programs Project Plan is street legal, so to speak, this morning and will be available through the office of the city clerk as well as at the Otis Library and posted to both the city's website and the Norwich Community Development Corporation website.

The plan is twenty-five pages long and offers a detailed explanation of the scale and scope of the $3.38 million downtown economic development bond package approved in November. It also explains the details of the three key components that comprise the plan.

There's $1.84 million in Code Correction Assistance which offers matching grants of up to $100,000 to building owners of vacant space not meeting current occupancy codes. If that sounds to you like Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance or health and fire codes issues for floors above the first floor, you're off to a good start but as the infomercials always say, 'wait there's more.'

Part two of the plan is a half a million dollar Commercial Lease Rebate Program that offers rental subsidies of up to five dollars a square foot for a maximum of five years to attract and encourage businesses to downtown.

And the third part is a one million dollar revolving loan fund for businesses ranging from office, commercial and retail through recreation and water-dependent to include workspace improvements, property acquisition and working capital.

Details to include who administers the funds, who is on which committee to do what and who holds overall responsibility for the plan are all spelled out between the covers.
But don't take my word, or anyone else's, for what's in it. Read it for yourself because, even as we close in on the start of the next Norwich, adjustments and modifications may still be needed and your eyes, perspective and most importantly, your presence, are requested at any (or all) of three public hearings on plan.

The three hearings kick off next Monday night, January 31st, in City Hall at 7 PM, with a follow-up on Saturday morning, 5 February at nine in the Central Fire House (bring your own dalmatian) with the third slated for Monday morning, February 8th, at eight in City Hall.

Get out your red pens, open your notebooks and take and whatever notes you need as you review the proposal and then come to one of the hearings ready to speak and to listen to your neighbors who are doing the same thing because together we are smarter than each of us alone.

All the comments from the public hearings and from the emails, letters and phone calls (and weather permitting, sky-writing I suppose) to the City Council and Mayor will be reflected in the final version of the plan submitted for the City Council's approval on Tuesday evening, February 22nd, with an approval required of the Board of Directors of the Norwich Community Development Corporation on Thursday, 24 February.

After that, hold on tight, because when you buy a ticket, you get the whole ride. And when you do the math, a bird in the hand is worth a bird in a cage is worth a bird on a telephone wire.
-bill kenny

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