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Reinventing Norwich Harbor (May 2013)

Reinventing Norwich Harbor (May 2013)

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Published by Norwich Magazine
Big plans are in the works for one of the city's most valuable resources in a push to get people to fish, kayak and spend time on the city's rivers.
Big plans are in the works for one of the city's most valuable resources in a push to get people to fish, kayak and spend time on the city's rivers.

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Published by: Norwich Magazine on May 08, 2013
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05/10/2013

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44 •
MAY 2013
 
City sets sights on $5.4 millionwaterfront vision
By Lisa Miceli FelicianoPhotos by Eric Tetreault
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norwichmag.com
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C
ity ocials and supporters are moving forward with a long-awaited plan to revitalize NorwichHarbor and the surrounding waterfront as adesirable destination for locals and tourists.e goal of the $5.4 million development planis to bolster recreational activity and economicgrowth in the harbor area, which was once a bustling commer-cial and travel port.e three-pronged project includes building a new, regionalboat launch on the waterfront o of Shipping Street, making improvements at Howard T. Brown Memorial Park to encour-age pedestrian, bicycle and small boat activity, and adding pedes-trian and shing access along the east river at New Wharf Road.e rst step is the new boat launch o of Shipping Street, onTerminal Way. e 36-acre parcel, ocials say, has key elementsincluding ample space, easy access and plenty of parking – all of  which are missing at the current launch location o of ChelseaHarbor Drive. e proposed location meets the objectives of city planners to create a multi-lane launch ramp, improvedtrailer turning radius, a boarding dock and parking for as many as 50 vehicles and trailers and potential for enclosed storage forcity-owned boats.ere is also space at the Shipping Street site where the city envisions mixed-use opportunities for retail and residentialdevelopment in the future.At the center of the plan to draw more people for outdooractivities such as walking, biking and kayaking is Brown Park, where the current boat launch is located. e park and nearby Marina at American Wharf already draw crowds in the warmermonths – the park with its public access to the water and themarina with its restaurant, events and new ice cream shop.e city envisions the waterfront park as a premier gather-ing place renovated to accommodate visiting boaters and locals wanting to put kayaks and other small paddle boats into theames River. e existing town launch there would be retrot-ted to accommodate those smaller vessels. e plan also includesadding a boardwalk at Brown Park.e area along the east of the river, o of New Wharf Road, would undergo pedestrian, cyclist and shing friendly improve-ments in tune with the city’s Heritage Walkway. ere could alsobe pedestrian bridge linking Brown Park with the new wharf area.According to Mayor Peter Nystrom, the harborfront plan is amultifaceted project that is centered on beautication and pub-lic access. e new boat launch, he said, is a “critical component”to drawing visitors to Norwich’s waterfront.Nystrom says building the visitor-friendly facilities will draw business, too.
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MAY 2013
“e more people that you have com-ing to the city expands opportunitiesfor those kinds of retail markets to grow.Businesses will follow the people; that’salways been the case,” Nystrom said. Withsolid pieces in place, including BrownPark, the Marina at American Wharf andthe “hotbed” of shing, Nystrom said,“I think people are reawakening to theaccess that is there.Nystrom compared the potential of the Norwich project to that of Hartford’sRiverfront Recapture, although he saidreinventing Norwich’s waterfront wouldnot include the $25 million price tag Hartfords plan is estimated to cost.“at was a very expensive proposi-tion. It works, but this should be a timeof scal austerity and if we can comeup with other remedies that aren’t asexpensive, we should look at those rst,Nystrom said.e city is counting on a partnership with state and federal agencies to fundthe harbor improvements, and city of-cials have been meeting with representa-tives from those various agencies to pitchthe plan.Currently, an environmental site assess-ment is underway at the Shipping Street property, which is a former industrialarea. Results of the assessment are expect-ed in about six months. e assessmentis an important step in moving forward with securing state and federal support.“Once we have those tests, we’ll havea better handle on specically what weare asking the state and federal agenciesfor,” said Jason Vincent, vice presidentof Norwich Community DevelopmentCorp. NCDC is a local partner in thedevelopment eort.
Norwich Harbor,then and now
A rich history ripples through NorwichHarbor. From the time of the Revolution-ary War to the Civil War, the harbor wasa bustling hub of clipper ship commerce,shipbuilding and wartime supply. e19th century brought shipping andsteamship activity with Norwich as aregular stop between New York andBoston. e textile mills boomed withthe maritime industry’s decline, and thendied post-World War II, but before that,Norwich’s waterfront was industrial, notrecreational.Few towns are fortunate enough tohave a scenic harbor as a centerpiece. Tenmiles of waterfront along the ames,Yantic and Shetucket rivers provide forabundant shing and boating opportu-nities. e city hopes to add to existing  walking trails, promote biking and dra visitors to the downtown area throughdevelopment and expansion with a nodto historical integrity. e goal is to addNorwich to the list of popular EasternConnecticut tourist destinations, suchas the casinos and Mystic. Experts alsoacknowledge that the abundance of shspecies, from bass and blues to shad,reect the harbor’s healthy eco-system.ere are even a couple of harbor seals.“I think that there are probably hundreds of thousands of communities
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The Marina at American Wharf. Right, reworks over the harbor.
NorMag_May_Master.indd 464/4/13 9:21 AM

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