Norwich – Members of the committee that oversees the city’s efforts to get developers to renovate run-down and abandoned properties ticked off another success story last week by touring the converted two-family home at 60 Sixth St. in Greeneville.
“Where do you want to do your next one? Committee member H. Tucker Braddock asked developer Jeff Warcholik, owner of Canterbury’s JPW Building LLC.
JPW Building is putting the finishing touches on the renovation project that took 21 months to completely gut and rebuild the long-vacant two-family home on the corner of Prospect Street. While the basic characteristics of the finished product remain the same – two three-bedroom apartments – the finished product barely resembles the “before” images.
JPW Building eliminated the old main entrance on the narrow side of the house on Sixth Street and created two new entrances on the Prospect Street side. And instead of one apartment on each floor, with an unoccupied attic at the top, Warcholik created a townhouse-style duplex, with each apartment having three floors of living space, each with three bedrooms and 2½ bathrooms. Each kitchen has granite countertops and an island for eating. Large original windows on the first floor can also be used as an emergency exit.
An area of crumbled asphalt outside the two entrances will be turned into grass, and the driveway and off-street parking will be on the Prospect Street side. He installed a palisade as a barrier to the overgrown yard and the neglected house next to it. Committee members joked that he could turn his attention to this house, where weeds could be seen growing from the gutters lining the roof.
The City Building and Fire Marshal’s Offices recently approved a Certificate of Occupancy for 60 Sixth St., and the next step will be for the 60 Sixth Street Committee of Sale – its members include the Board of Review of Dangerous Buildings – to recommend that City Council approve the transfer of ownership of the property to the JPW building.
Warcholik said he would put the house on the market. If he does not find a buyer within approximately six months, he will rent both units.
As a bonus, unrelated to the renovation, a day after the committee visited, road rollers and construction trucks moved along Prospect Street and repaved what had collapsed, as part of the repaving project road in the city.
The house at 60 Sixth St. is the third renovation project in what became the second generation of the former Urban Farm program launched in 1998.
The city started the program to both fight blight and encourage home ownership. Rather than auctioning off or demolishing foreclosed and abandoned homes in dire condition, the Board of Review of Dangerous Buildings marketed select properties – some of them historic homes – for $1 to potential developers with the winning renovation plans. Applicants had to prove their financial means and/or their ability to carry out the renovations themselves.
In the first edition, the city favored proposals from owner-occupiers, accepting rental proposals if necessary. Twenty single-family and multi-family buildings have been renovated under the program, with an overwhelming success rate.
The city farm scheme faded as the housing market boomed in Norwich and the region, which made the auctioning of foreclosed properties more successful. But Director of Inspections James Troeger and review board members still prefer the RFP process for some properties.
Troeger pointed to the control the RFP process gives the city, ensuring the job gets done. Some auctioned properties end up staying in the same condition for years, forcing the city to seek law enforcement fines.
While the city may not get purchase prices up front, Troeger said, the long-term benefit of assured renovations that improve key neighborhoods and higher land values is a better outcome. The new RFP program does not emphasize owner-occupied projects and is fine with the developer putting the home on the market immediately.
Proposals are received and evaluated by the Hazardous Building Review Committee, which makes recommendations to City Council on a preferred developer. The resulting development agreement includes timelines and the developer does not receive ownership until the project is complete.
Three homes have been completed since January under the new scheme. The ownership of an 1875 single-family home at 347 Central Ave. in Greeneville was transferred to developer Lauren Kang Properties LLC of Norwich on February 5. Renovations were completed by Norwich developer Burnham Square Development Agency to an 1880 house at 19 N. Cliff St. Like the Sixth Street house, the committee has made its rounds and is recommending that the City Council transfer the property.
“Personally, I think it’s a fantastic program, and it’s a win for the city,” said Alderman Stacy Gould, a member of the hazardous building review committee, which becomes the sales committee for each renovation projects. “We take those properties that have been taken for seizure and put them on the tax rolls.”
While scheduled timelines often slip in renovation projects, both Gould and Troeger said the committee tracks progress and may call the developer into a meeting to discuss ongoing work. Gould often drives by projects to take mental notes of work, or visible lack of work, there.
“We have a dedicated group on the review board that follows these properties to make sure they’re done right,” Gould said. “We vet these developers to make sure they have the financial means or know the people to hire. We don’t want them to start a project and say six months later, ‘I finally found an electrician. “.
Warcholik said the house at 60 Sixth St. was “a little worse” than he expected and took a little longer than he had hoped, but “we got through it” . This was his first experience with the Norwich RFP programme. He worked with Norwich Public Utilities on the energy efficient lighting and natural gas heating system.
“It was good to work with them,” Warcholik said of city agencies. “The committee has always been helpful. It was definitely a good experience.