NORTH STONINGTON — Negotiations continue with both an early learning center and a theater troupe as the city continues to seek tenants for the North Stonington Education Center’s two-story wing, and officials said If all goes according to plan, the city could start seeing income from the long-vacant building in the near future.
North Stonington first coach Robert Carlson said on Tuesday the city ran into a problem after learning that a potential second floor tenant, an early learning center, would not be able to use the second floor in because of the age of the children involved. . If a move to the first floor were made, a bathroom would need to be installed to accommodate the needs and another potential client, a theater group, might be willing to consider using the second floor space at the place – both organizations can be willing to these changes and conditions.
“We had a hard time with this building, 298 Norwich-Westerly Road,” Carlson said. “It’s been a nightmare for the last three years trying to get a lease, to find someone to come here.
“These challenges didn’t completely blow up the deal with the early learning center,” he added.
Negotiations mark the final efforts to lease space from the old school building, but ownership has proven to be more of a liability than an asset so far, as officials have struggled to find a tenant while simultaneously battling rising maintenance costs to avoid greater issues.
The town first obtained ownership by transfer from the North Stonington Board of Education upon completion of the school modernization project.
Following several unsuccessful negotiations with potential tenants, the community expressed a desire in forums in January to see the one-story wing that once served as a college demolished, as originally planned before further unforeseen cleaning needs of the environment does not force the city to regroup.
The Board of Finance voted earlier this month to allocate $1 million in funding from the city’s American Rescue Plan Act funds to help with the demolition, which was done at the request of the first selector Robert Carlson on behalf of the Board of Selectmen.
Carlson told finance members earlier this month that the city hoped to move quickly to bring the project to a town meeting in April with requests for proposals, and said he would be able to use the source of guaranteed financing to limit the impact on taxpayers. The million dollars will not cover the full cost of demolition, he warned, but would still significantly reduce project costs.
“It will go a long way to reducing (demolition) costs,” Carlson said. “If we booked it, it won’t be used for anything else, and if we don’t move forward with the demolition of this one-storey wing, the money would go back to the board to be reallocated. “
Officials said earlier this month that the overall cost of the demolition would not be known until the city received offers, but Carlson noted the costs were already $1.1 million. at the time of the school’s modernization project and could well have increased to $1.4 million or $1.5 million. because.
While demolition would negate the need to find a tenant for the single-story wing, the question remains what to do with the two-story space. The property is to be used for educational purposes, per deed restrictions, and Carlson said he hopes the two potential tenants can come together and find a way to use the space in a way that works. for everyone.
The early learning center, according to the most recently discussed plan, would take up most of the first floor. Renovations would be needed to create a bathroom on the first floor, which currently does not exist, but Carlson said the “potential tenant’s husband is an engineer” and they were confident there would be a viable solution .
With much of the first floor leased, Carlson said a theater group is eyeing the second-floor space and would also be able to use first-floor store space that the early learning center doesn’t have. would have no use.
There are still a lot of moving parts, Carlson said, but he remains hopeful that the city will be able to turn something that has been a high cost into an asset that can work to make the city a small income to the place.
“If everything works out, we’ll finally start to see income in the near future,” Carlson said. “It’s still a work in progress, but hopefully we can come up with something.”