The State Department of Transportation is proposing to acquire five entire properties along U.S. Route 82. Phase 1 of the controversial rebuilding project will include a roundabout at the intersection with Asylum, Mount Pleasant and Osgood Street. In addition to five full property acquisitions, Phase 1 will require 44 partial acquisitions of properties along the route.
NORWITCH — David McDowell makes his living designing and printing signs and now prints signs designed to help make a living.
A controversial proposed DOT roundabout on Route 82 West Main Street led to the demolition of him and four other buildings.
So when opponents asked him to create “no roundabouts” signs to protest the $20 million project, McDowell was skeptical that it would be effective, but others I got down to business like I did business orders.
On Thursday, McDowell sent the design to Mayor Peter Nystrom, who is also a strong opponent of the project. Residents and business owners also asked for autographs.
“I’m a professional sign maker,” he said.
But McDowell said it may be too late now that the city council voted 4-3 on Sept. 6 to allow the DOT to proceed with advanced design work.
Phase 1 design work is 30% complete from Fairmount to Dunham Street at the Asylum, Mount Pleasant and Osgood Street roundabouts. The project manager then contacts the owner and potential acquisition company to initiate negotiations. Phase 1 design work he expects to be completed by the fall of 2024, said DOT spokesperson Shannon King.
McDowell said he has no complaints about the DOT project team presenting plans at public meetings and communicating with property owners. But McDowell said the state’s acquisition process was flawed and unfair.The state’s fair market value does not measure a lifetime of work, sacrifice, or even retirement planning by small business owners. There is none.
“My whole life has been in this business,” he said Thursday. “I started in the basement with $1,200.”
McDowell leased and then purchased the building at 303 West Main St. To retire, he planned to sell the business and lease the building to the business.
“This building was my 401k,” he said. “The state does not consider it”
Dana Gallivan, next door, expressed similar frustration about the potential loss of her livelihood. did. Her students ranged in age from she was 3 to 18, and her family liked her location and complained about the traffic hazards that prompted the state to propose a rebuild. She said she never did.
“We can’t afford to move to a new location on the Strip,” said Gallivan. “Dance lessons are too expensive. It’s a small dance studio with a homely atmosphere. Mom likes to leave the kids and go shopping for a while.”
Like McDowell, Gallivan said her building is her retirement plan and will either sell it or lease it to a new business. She installs a “no roundabouts” sign in the window. She said the DOT should try medians, left turn lanes, speed bumps, or other less aggressive measures.
“I feel like whatever they’re trying to give me isn’t enough for me to move,” Gallivan said. I feel like it doesn’t take into account the small town of Norwich.”
In the first phase, the five properties will be fully acquired. The now vacant former Strange Brew Pub (297 West Main Street), next door All The Light Moves Dance Studio (299 West Main Street), Sign Professionals (303 West Main Street) and the Xtra Mart/Shell gas station Located at 564 West Main St. At 454 West Main St. there is a building with a Garage Barbershop and upstairs apartments.
A short privately owned Crane Avenue across from Osgood Street will also be acquired and converted to a city road once the project is complete.
DOT officials anticipate the need for 44 partial acquisitions along Phase 1. The road will be reduced to one travel lane in each direction, with medians to prevent left turns, 5-foot-wide bike lanes, and reconstructed sidewalks.
Phase 2, still at the ‘concept level’, will require additional properties and will run past the New London Turnpike to Salem Plaza. Together, the project will replace seven traffic lights with six proposed roundabouts.
Jalal Ahmad, manager of the Xtra Mart/Shell petrol station and convenience store on the corner of West Main and Dunham streets, has been working there since January 2019.
Ahmad said it took time to build a loyal customer base after the owner bought the station in 2015. At first, he said, business was slow. Now, late weekday afternoons, he juggles almost non-stop buying gas, ordering and redeeming lottery tickets, buying snacks, cigarettes, and vape products.
“We’ve been kind to our customers, and they keep coming back,” he said. “It would be difficult to go anywhere else.
Ahmad said he understands the roads are dangerous. His car was once hit by a left turner who didn’t see him coming.
DOT officials cited state statistics showing that from 2017 to 2021, 35 people were injured in an average of 100 crashes per year on the 1.3-mile stretch. About 40% occurred in areas without traffic lights and 60% occurred at seven intersections with traffic lights.
“Left-turning vehicles frequently cause reversing in the left lane, which contributes to weaving and high collision rates,” says the DOT’s information brochure about the project.
The shopping street from Interstate 395 to downtown has been dubbed the “Golden Mile” as a great place to do business, along with the nickname “Crash Alley.”
Lorenzo Paulino and Luis Jimenez, partners at Garage Barbershop on West Main and Osgood Streets, say business is “100 percent better” since moving from Franklin Street three years ago. The building has parking and is easily accessible at Osgood traffic lights.
Paulino said he was vaguely aware of the proposed Route 82 reconstruction project when he moved in, but wasn’t sure if it would come to fruition. Both said they were “very sad” about the prospect of moving.
“I think about everything,” said Paulino.
We both live in Norwich and would like to have a shop in town.
“It’s sad because it’s a nice place,” Jimenez said. “We are comfortable here. My customers like it here.
City Council enlisted the Norwich Community Development Corporation, an economic development agency, to help businesses displaced by the project and many others facing years of construction disruption. . Phase 1 will begin in Spring 2025 and is expected to be completed by Fall 2026. Construction of Phase 2 is scheduled to begin in 2027.
NCDC President Kevin Brown said the company is working on ways to help relocate, renovate new spaces, capital costs, and possible subsidies to businesses that suffer loss of revenue during construction.
City officials have already identified 16 vacant homes. Brown said that if any of the displaced businesses want to relocate to those locations, the NCDC may be able to help beyond what the state negotiates with the relocated business owners.
NCDC is providing $1.5 million to the Norwich Revitalization Program as part of the city’s American Relief Plan Act grant. Part of the program provides grants to prepare vacant spaces for new businesses.
Brown said he will pursue state grants through a new Community Investment Fund to support Route 82 operations. He plans to ask the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development to prioritize funding for the area because of road construction disruptions.
“If we can bundle together the assistance and compensation that the state offers and modify the ARP allocations to make the location habitable, in the best case we may be able to make it free. At least for businesses. at minimal cost to
Regarding the construction disruption, Brown said he would ask if the state could reflect Gov. Ned Lamont’s recently announced grant program to compensate restaurants, wineries and hospitality businesses that have suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic. I was. The state’s Department of Revenue and Services will pay businesses showing loss of revenue during the pandemic from $7,500 to $49,999.
“We could see it,” Brown said. “I can’t promise that we can help them overcome all the impacts they are having on their business. I will,” said Brown.
The Department of Transportation’s preliminary design plans for Phase 1 of the Highway 82 West Main Street Restructuring Project require the acquisition of five properties and a short driveway, Crane Avenue. An additional 44 partial fetches may be required along the route.
The following five properties are scheduled to be acquired.
- 454 West Main Street: Garage barber shop and 2nd floor apartment.
Owners: Ebadath Chowhoury and Miah Suruj from Norwich.
Building: 2,544 square feet. Land 0.24 acres.
- 565 West Main Street.: Extra Mart/Shell Gas Station/Convenience Store.
Owner: Drake Petroleum Co., Inc. of Branford.
Building: 1,900 square feet. Land 0.53 acres.
- 303 West Main Street:signature expert.
Owner: Sign Pro Properties LLC of Norwich.
Building: 2,885 square feet. Land 0.31 acres.
- 299 West Main StreetAll the Light Moves Dance Studio.
Owner: Gallivan Norwich Holdings LLC of Preston.
Building: 1,724 square feet. Land: 0.09 acres.
- 297 West Main Street.: Vacant, former Strange Brew Pub.
Owner: Xin Yuan LLC of Norwich.
Building: 2,463 square feet. Land: 0.36 acres.