Windsor Pair Buy Norwich Square Commercial Complex
Norwich — Ownership of a town landmark and major commercial building on Main Street has changed hands.
Norwich Square, the three-building office and retail complex across from the town green that was developed two decades ago using existing structures dating to 1775s, was sold Thursday to Norwich Square Properties Ltd., a company owned by Jane Osgood and Ted Hilles, who have purchased and restored buildings in downtown Windsor.
The 16,700-square-foot complex is fully leased and includes the Norwich Bookstore, Norwich Wine & Spirits, Allechante, Zuzu’s and the Norwich post office as tenants. Under the new ownership, the property will be managed by Woodard Associates.
“Norwich Square is a significant and beautiful group of landmark buildings, which contribute in so many ways to the quality of life and the economic vitality of Norwich,” Osgood and Hilles said in an email on Thursday. “We understand the importance of this property to the town. We intend to act as stewards of this property and to continue without major change the traditions and high standards set by the former owners, the Holland family.”
Although neither the buyers nor the sellers would confirm the exact sales price, seller Harry Holland said that the price was “somewhere south” of the $4.98 million asking price, but greater than $4 million.
“It was almost what we had in it. It was a prideful property for us, not a money-maker,” Holland said.
And despite rumors in Norwich that the buildings were going to be torn down and a McDonald’s and Jiffy Lube built on the property, Norwich Square is going to stay as it was before the sale, he said.
“These are wonderful people who appreciate the buildings and want to preserve them,” Holland said.
Holland build Norwich Square between 1990 an 1994 using most of the existing homes and buildings on the 1.4-acre site, and although the buildings maintain the architectural detail and preserve and the historic character of the original 18th century structures, the project faced bitter opposition from some town residents.
“I didn’t get a lot of hugs on the street at the start, but most people generally came around. I have a nice scrapbook of some of the hate mail I got,” Holland said.
“For us, it wasn’t a get-rich-quick project, and I spent a lot of time mowing lawns and keeping up with things. I think the best days are yet to come for Norwich Square, and it will have a quiet change of command.”
There were two residences originally on the property that were built by the early residents some time between 1775 and 1795, said Nancy Hoggson of the Norwich Historical Society.
Emerson, a prominent merchant, build a number of houses in what was then called the Norwich Plain, including one that is where Zuzu’s now is located, she said.
The other house is the Elijah Burton House was on the corner. The bookstore is a new building that matches the earlier architecture, and the building that now houses the post office was the carriage shed.
The buildings that were torn down to make room for Norwich Square — the brick post office and a drugstore that also sold liquor — were 20th century and insignificant architecturally, Hoggson said.
“Harry did a really nice job building the Square, and it’s the hub of the community. It’s our downtown. He put a lot into making sure it was a nice development,” she said.
In recent years, Osgood and Hilles have been major players in the revitalization of downtown Windsor.
They have purchased and restored properties, including the former Unitarian church (now an artist’s studio), the Enright Block and Windsor House.
They have admired Norwich Square for a number of years, and recently shopped there for Christmas presents for friends and family, Osgood said Thursday afternoon.
They weren’t recognized by the merchants during their recent shopping trip, and “we didn’t get any discounts,” Hilles quipped.
“(Norwich Square) is a lovely building, and it’s wonderful the way it is. It gives us a great opportunity to become part of the Norwich community. We’re not going to change things. We’re preservationists. This is a beautiful historic building, and we are going to keep it that way,” Osgood said.
Warren Johnston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3216.