April 27, 2017 08:03PM
By Brooke Constance White
Sun staff writer
STONINGTON — With nearly 10,000 square feet of building area and 160 feet of riverfront, the old Laura’s Landing property on West Broad Street presents many redevelopment possibilities.
The three story building, which once housed a cafe and bar called Laura’s Landing, a martial arts studio, a pool hall, and nine residential efficiency apartments, fell into disrepair and was vacant long before the current owner, Fred Blackall, purchased it in 1994.
Although rehabilitation of the property would be a formidable undertaking, Calvin Utter, the listing agent with William Raveis Real Estate, said he sees it as a project for someone who truly believes in the continuing revitalization of downtown Pawcatuck.
“It would take a developer a few years to recoup their expenses but I think it’s for someone who believes in the community,” he said. “We want the potential buyer with the most solid vision to buy this property.”
Although the building was vacated several decades ago, it was never fully cleared out. Today, there’s a lot of furniture, tools and other odds and ends still at the site. The sprawling bar area, dance floor and small performance stage on the first floor are still intact, harking back to a bygone era. The large logo of the dojo that occupied a portion of the third story remains on the finished wooden floor, and there’s a floor-to-ceiling mirror along one wall.
“There’s always that moment when the building stops being taken care of and then the last person leaves and the building is just left there,” Utter said. “It will need a lot of work but there is so much potential and if the right investor or stakeholders get involved, I think this place could really take off again.”
From his perspective, the highest and best use for the 1922 property, which is listed at $438,800, is to have a high-end dock-and-dine waterfront restaurant on the first floor and residential units on the second and third floor. As things move forward and more parties begin to express serious interest in buying the property, Utter said he wants to work with the Planning Department in Stonington to maximize the residential potential for the 0.21-acre site.
At the moment the department is working to propose a new zoning district called Pawcatuck Village Zone or PV-5, which would be tailored to the community’s needs and allow for more contemporary uses and higher density mixed-uses to attract investment.
With large windows overlooking the Pawcatuck River, the location would be perfect for condos or rental units, and the proposed rezoning to allow higher density could greatly increase the building’s potential, Utter said, as could the surge in arts and culture in downtown Westerly.
“The food-beverage industry and arts culture in Westerly is a big part of what’s pushing things along across the river,” he said. “The way the property is so visible and situated right on West Broad and also right on the river, it would make sense to have some kind of riverfront restaurant.”
For the town, the redevelopment of the Laura’s Landing property is a key piece in the long-desired revitalization of downtown Pawcatuck.
Planning Director Jason Vincent said the property is one of the gateways to the community and it would be good for the community and neighborhood for it to be used in a vibrant manner.
“Vacant and underutilized properties like this send signals to the market, which can erode confidence in a neighborhood,” he said. “Hopefully we can find a property owner that is inspired by the idea of working with the community to create a riverfront walking path to connect West Broad Street to Donahue Park, and beyond.”
Over the years, there’s been a lot of interest in the property, which has been listed as for sale by owner. With its new listing through William Raveis Real Estate, Utter said he thinks there’s a good chance someone will come in and seize the opportunity.
“I think this could be a huge turning point for downtown Pawcatuck and for the town,” he said. “I’m really trying to get things moving. I’ve talked to a lot of people in Stonington about this and it’s something everyone would be thrilled about.”