By KENNETH R. GOSSELIN
East Haddam’s Johnsonville will remain a ghost town, at least for a while longer.
The long-abandoned village once envisioned as a tourist attraction is back on the market with a listing price of $2.4 million after the winning bidder in an online auction last fall couldn’t close the purchase, the owners of the 62-acre property said Wednesday.
Johnsonville’s owner, Meyer Jabara Hotels in Danbury, said it decided to pursue a traditional listing rather than another auction to allow potential buyers more time to assess the sprawling property, line up financing and submit offers.
Justin Jabara, the hotel group’s operations manager, said Wednesday the listing has already drawn interest from some of the runners-up in last fall’s auction as well as other potential buyers.
“We’ve got buyers at the table, from developers to summer camps and beyond,” Jabara said.
The majority of potential buyers are looking to incorporate the village into any redevelopment, but “one or two are just looking at doing away with Johnsonville,” Jabara said. The latter option could include subdividing the property and selling it off for residential development, he said.
Other potential uses include an equestrian center, a vineyard and a set for a movie production company, Jabara said.
In October, Johnsonville drew a high bid of $1.9 million, below the $2.5 million the hotel group and its principals — William A. Meyer of West Palm Beach, Fla., and Richard Jabara of Ridgefield — paid for the property in 2001.
Justin Jabara, the son of Richard Jabara, declined to identify the auction’s top bidder or comment on the circumstances surrounding the collapse of the deal.
The village, in the Moodus section of town, was assembled by industrialist Raymond Schmitt after he purchased the nearby Neptune Twine and Cord Mill Factory in the mid-1960s.
Schmitt traveled throughout New England and purchased antique buildings, including a schoolhouse, a chapel, a general store and a livery stable. Schmitt moved them to Moodus to recreate an 18th-century Victorian village on the former mill site. The property was opened to the public around the holidays and hosted private functions, but it never became a bustling tourist attraction.
Over the years, Meyer and Jabara explored various plans, including a restored village paired with a 55-and-over community; the addition of a boutique hotel and restaurant; and a destination spa and retreat. But economic recessions accompanied by the tightening of financing got in the way.
In addition, Meyer Jabara’s core business is focused on hotels.
“It’s time for Johnsonville to go to someone who has the dream and make it happen,” Justin Jabara said Wednesday.
Many of the artifacts and antiques from inside the buildings were sold after Schmitt’s death in 1998. But the village itself was pulled from the auction block when bidders didn’t meet the $3 million figure Schmitt’s heirs were hoping for.
The property, listed with Figure Eight Properties broker Jim Kelly in West Hartford, has eight historic buildings on the western side of Johnsonville Road and, on the eastern side of the road, Johnsonville Mill Pond with a covered bridge, a wooden dam and a waterfall.
Justin Jabara said the vacant buildings are in various conditions. “Some are better than others,” he said, “but all are restorable.”