In 2016, the City of Norwich voted to demolish the city owned former Reid and Hughes department store arguing that the building had deteriorated beyond repair and they were unsuccessful in securing a developer over the years. Many historic preservation advocates, downtown businesses, and a potential developer for the property pleaded with the Norwich City Council to save the building; much of the testimony included references to the Wauregan Hotel project having occurred directly across the street from the Reid and Hughes building.
After the 5-2 vote in favor of demolition, preservation advocates including the Norwich Heritage Trust began planning the next course of action which included seeking assistance from the State Historic Preservation Office. In December 2016, supporters and opponents of saving the Reid and Hughes provided three hours of testimony to the State Historic Preservation Council where the Council voted to request the Attorney General’s office file an injunction to stop the demolition of the Reid & Hughes building citing a viable alternative to demolition. The Norwich Historical Society supported the Norwich Heritage Trust’s advocacy efforts and NHS provided testimony at the State Historic Preservation Office.
In the aftermath, the Women’s Institute for Housing and Economic Development stepped forward as the preferred developer with a proposal to renovate the building and create a mix of market rate and affordable housing units and retail space on the ground level.
After months of negotiations between all parties involved, a proposal was agreed upon where the Women’s Institute would have a specified amount of time to raise enough money to stabilize the building. After failing to secure enough money through grants and loans, the Women’s Institute requested a partial matching contribution from the City of Norwich to help offset the shortfall; the city agreed to contribute $150,000 towards the stabilization efforts.
The struggle to save the Reid and Hughes building remains ongoing. It is our hope that the Reid and Hughes will become another successful example of putting preservation before demolition.
There are numerous newspaper articles regarding the ongoing Reid & Hughes saga; below are a few of them:
- Bessette, Claire. “Norwich City Council votes to demolish Reid & Hughes.” The Day, October 3, 2016.
- Blessing, Ryan. “State to ask AG for injunction to halt Reid & Hughes demolition.” The Bulletin, December 7, 2016.
- Blessing, Ryan. “Norwich council agrees to Reid & Hughes deal.” The Bulletin, August 21, 2017.
- Menders, Stephanie. “City Council approves $150K contribution for Reid & Hughes.” The Bulletin, April 2, 2018.