Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Deadline extended for Citizens Block renovation proposals

By Kym Soper
Journal Inquirer
March 6, 2007

VERNON - With little interest shown so far for the project, town officials have extended the deadline by two weeks for renovation proposals on the Citizens Block, a historic building on the corner of Park Place and Elm Street, next door to the senior center and two doors down from Town Hall.

A request for proposals outlining the town's plans for the three-story, 15,000-square-foot stone building already has gone out. Town officials say that for the right proposal, the town is willing to grant as long as a 30-year lease for as little as $1.

But Town Administrator Christopher Clark said no one attended the scheduled site walkthrough on Feb. 20, and with a March 15 deadline looming only two requests for proposals have been taken out and no bids received thus far.

As such, town officials late last week extended the deadline to March 29 and scheduled a second walkthrough for private sector developers on March 22.

While attendance at the walkthrough is not mandatory, and bids are typically not submitted until the deadline, town officials say they are concerned enough with the apparent lack of interest to push back dates.

"We'd like to see a little more activity on this," Clark said.

Also, an ad has been placed in a statewide magazine published by the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, but won't run until mid-month. That's another reason for extending the deadline, Clark said, as many of the magazine's readers are the type of developer being sought.

Located above Central Park in the heart of the Rockville section, the building's ground floor has windowed storefronts that officials are hoping will be filled with retail shops or commercial businesses.

The two upper floors could be developed as office space or apartments, with town offices to be included in that area, officials say.

The entire structure would have to be gutted and renovated and the cost would be significant, Clark said. That's why the town is willing to grant such a long lease for minimal rent.

The cornerstone building is one of eight in the area dating from the late 19th century and is in a "state of terrible disrepair," the RFP states, but "the significance of this structure to downtown is paramount."

Once a vibrant hub, downtown Rockville is attempting a rebirth as Central Park, between Park Place and East Main Street, undergoes its own renovation.

Mayor Ellen L. Marmer said the reconstruction of Citizens Block could help invigorate downtown and offer a great location to any developer.

But town officials are hoping to find someone well-versed in historic restoration.

Constructed in 1879, the building is on the National Register of Historic Places. The town bought it in 1998 for roughly $31,000 in order to maintain control of the three properties along Park Place.

Downtown Rockville itself is a National Register Historic District. Properties within the district, including the Citizens Block, are subject to specific historic benefits, protections, and restrictions.

The second walkthrough will leave at 10 a.m. March 22 from the lobby of the senior center, located between Town Hall and the Citizens Block on Park Place.

©Journal Inquirer 2007