We've long thought that the center of Norwich was one of the state's underappreciated treasures, and now that opinion is gaining ground. The American Planning Association just named historic downtown Norwich one of its 10 "Great Neighborhoods" for 2013.
The APA cited The Rose City for "for three decades of planning that has led to the preservation, rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of its impressive 19th- and early 20th-century commercial and residential buildings; $70 million in redevelopment initiatives during the past decade alone; and the neighborhood's ethnic and cultural diversity."
The national award is part of the APA's "Great Places" program. The only previous winner in Connecticut was the New Haven Green neighborhood.
An old mill town built at the juncture of three rivers, Norwich is on one of the great city sites in the state. It somehow managed to avoid the level of urban renewal demolition that bedeviled so many of the state's older cities in the decades after World War II. It lost some buildings, but saved many important structures including the 1855 Wauregan Hotel, where President Abraham Lincoln once stayed.
As a result, downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods have one of the most remarkable collections of architectural styles in the Northeast.
Though Norwich's fortunes have waxed and waned over a long history, it appears to be well positioned today, thanks to its architectural heritage, waterfront, proximity to the casinos and, not least, the fact that it is on two rail lines. If passenger service returns to these lines, as has been proposed, Norwich can be connected by rail to many other interesting places.