Pawcatuck merchants cheer sale of ‘neglected’ building

Pawcatuck merchants cheer sale of ‘neglected’ building


PAWCATUCK — The sale of 34 West Broad St., former home of Laura’s Landing, was welcome news to neighboring merchants in downtown Pawcatuck.

“We’re super-happy that it sold, especially from my perspective as the vice president of the Downtown Business Association,” Mia Byrnes, owner of Mia’s Cafe at 1 West Broad St., said Saturday. “We don’t like to see vacant buildings downtown; we don’t know what’s going in there and whether it’s a restaurant or retail, we don’t really care, as long as there’s activity that can drive more traffic down here.”

Philip Becker, of Glendale, Calif., purchased the three-story building Tuesday from Helene Fox Blackall, of Stonington. She and her husband, Frederick S. Blackall, bought the 9,628-square-foot structure in 1994 for $120,000. The sale price last week was $360,000.

Becker, originally from Norwich, visited the beaches in Misquamicut in his younger days. In an interview Friday, he said he wanted to work with the town to revitalize downtown Pawcatuck, including the restoration of the property’s 160 feet of river frontage as part of the long-proposed riverwalk from Donahue Park. He said he planned to move into building with his wife in the near future and wanted to live on the top floor.

Justin Smith, owner of Legends Smoke Shop at 38 West Broad St., said he hoped to have first dibs on taking the commercial space at 34 Broad because it’s larger than his present shop.

“I want to do Legends Bar and Grill and Smoke Shop,” said Smith, who has leased his shop since March 2016.

Growing up in Pawcatuck, Smith said he had a fondness for the building.

“I remember going in there as a kid and eating there when it was Laura’s Landing; I remember it opening but I remember it closing, too, and it’s just sat there for 25 years,” he said. “I’m glad someone came along and bought it; hopefully they’ll do something nice with it and not tear it down.”

Wendy Brown, president of the Westerly Pawcatuck Downtown Business Association, said she was always aware of the building’s potential, especially because of its location.

“I’m grateful that it’s in the hands of someone who will give it some life, it’s been standing there unused and neglected — it’s a sad building,” she said. “With the revitalization of Westerly over the past 10 years, this is just another building block in that renaissance that’s been going on all around that building.”

Jim Lathrop, owner of Best Energy, said the sale of 34 West Broad signaled a major, positive change for downtown Pawcatuck.

“I think in many ways that building is the gateway to downtown Pawcatuck and it’s great that it will be developed into something much better than it presently is,” he said Friday. Lathrop has been in his location at 4 Mechanic St. since October 2012 and also purchased 29 West Broad in July 2016. He now has four commercial tenants in that space.

Byrnes, who has leased her space for three years, said putting tenants in the upper floors at 34 West Broad and in other buildings along the strip will also promote the Westerly Pawcatuck area as a walking community.

“Between Bricks and Murals and also that the building is going to come to life, there’s a lot of good things happening in downtown,” she said.

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