Fore­clo­sure on Nor­wich’s for­mer MLK Cen­ter nearly com­plete

The Day - - REGION - By CLAIRE BESSETTE Day Staff Writer

Nor­wich — The tax fore­clo­sure ac­tion against the de­funct Martin Luther King Cen­ter at 21 Fair­mount St. is nearly com­plete, but city of­fi­cials don’t ex­pect to own the large cen­tury-old house for long, if at all.

The city filed tax fore­clo­sure ac­tion against the shut­tered for­mer West Side neigh­bor­hood youth cen­ter in Oc­to­ber 2016, af­ter the cen­ter had been closed for three years and had lost its tax-ex­empt sta­tus. Back taxes through Septem­ber 2018 had to­taled $42,224, ac­cord­ing to at­tor­ney Aimee Wick­less, who is han­dling the fore­clo­sure ac­tion for the city.

Since no one from the de­funct Martin Luther King Cen­ter board of di­rec­tors came for­ward to be rep­re­sented in the fore­clo­sure, and the city could not con­firm whether any party had re­ceived the no­tice of the pend­ing ac­tion,

New Lon­don Su­pe­rior Court Judge Em­mett Cos­grove or­dered a le­gal no­tice be pub­lished once a week for two weeks in an ef­fort to no­tify any representatives of the group.

The next court date is sched­uled for Dec. 17, with a mo­tion for strict fore­clo­sure pend­ing.

An ap­praisal of the prop­erty or­dered by the city placed the value of the 2,875-square-foot build­ing at $100,000. Ap­praiser Howard B. Russ of Riess Ap­praisal Co. LLC wrote that he was only able to do an ex­te­rior as­sess­ment of the build­ing and pro­posed that the “high­est and best use” would be to con­vert the build­ing into a mul­ti­fam­ily dwelling, de­spite the lack of off-street park­ing. It is lo­cated in a mul­ti­fam­ily zone.

“The mar­ket has been rel­a­tively ac­tive for sim­i­lar large build­ings with mixed use or multi-fam­ily use,” Russ wrote. “There have been a rea­son­able num­ber of trans­ac­tions of this prop­erty type.”

Wick­less said with the ap­praisal value set at $100,000, and the city’s back tax bill less than half that to­tal, the court likely would or­der a tax fore­clo­sure auc­tion. With no other cred­i­tors listed af­ter the city’s tax lien, in that sce­nario, any sale price above the amount owed to the city would go to the state for po­ten­tial claim by cred­i­tors. If not, the money would re­vert to the state, she said.

If the city be­comes the owner ei­ther by court or­der or through lack of in­ter­est in an auc­tion, Mayor Peter Nys­trom said he would sug­gest mar­ket­ing it to lo­cal multi-fam­ily de­vel­op­ers who al­ready have been do­ing work in the city.

Al­though the build­ing has been va­cant for three years, city Blight En­force­ment Of­fi­cer Brit­tany Wil­liams said the house re­mains se­cured. Some il­le­gal dump­ing had been done in front of the house, and the brush in front had over­grown and was ob­struct­ing the side­walk last sum­mer. She con­tacted the city’s last known care­taker, for­mer board mem­ber and long­time Martin Luther King Cen­ter cham­pion M. Garfield Rucker.

She said Rucker quickly had the brush cut and the de­bris re­moved.

Rucker could not be reached for com­ment Fri­day. In De­cem­ber 2013, he used the last re­main­ing money from grants to the cen­ter to pay the fi­nal util­ity bills be­fore ask­ing Nor­wich Pub­lic Util­i­ties to turn off the util­i­ties. At the time of the city’s fore­clo­sure fil­ing in 2016, Rucker said there were no board mem­bers re­main­ing to re­spond to the fore­clo­sure ac­tion.

Nys­trom said it’s time to put the prop­erty back on the city tax rolls.

“The build­ing that had a true mis­sion and a pur­pose for kids is long gone,” Nys­trom said.

CLAIRE BESSETTE/THE DAY

The for­mer Martin Luther King Cen­ter, 21 Fair­mount St., on Fri­day. The city’s tax fore­clo­sure ac­tion against the de­funct fa­cil­ity is nearly com­plete. The prop­erty likely will be auc­tioned for multi-fam­ily de­vel­op­ment.

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