April 25, 2007
By JEFFREY B. COHEN, Courant Staff Writer
Developer Lawrence R. Gottesdiener is having more luck putting scotch on downtown ice than big league hockey.
The man behind Hartford's new high-rise apartment tower and the drive to bring the National Hockey League back to the city wants to put a liquor store at the building's ground level, next to a planned grocery store on Asylum Street.
"It's the perfect complement to Bliss," said Gottesdiener spokesman Chuck Coursey, referring to the Bliss Market that is expected to open by late summer. "It's one of the services that new and prospective residents want in the urban core. Its presence will encourage other retailers to follow."
The 2,000-square-foot liquor store would be 85 percent fine wines, plus beer, distilled spirits and other products, he said.
Coursey would not identify the new liquor store but said he "hoped" its opening would coincide with that of the grocery store. A lease has yet to be signed.
Optimism about the city's resurgence has long been tempered by talk that new, resident-oriented retailers have been slow to set up downtown shop. Boosters like Gottesdiener argue that retail will follow residents, who are now starting to take new downtown addresses. He says his tower is roughly 30 percent filled.
Although Gottesdiener had to subsidize the Bliss Market's move to Hartford 21 by paying to build its new 7,000-square-foot store, he didn't have to do the same for the liquor store, Coursey said.
One thing could stand in the way. City regulations say that liquor stores can't be within 200 feet of property used for a church, school, library, hospital, or charitable institution.
While the store itself is more than 240 feet away from the city's Sport and Medical Sciences Academy at 275 Asylum, Hartford 21 includes property that is closer to the school, Coursey said. That proximity means Gottesdiener needs a variance from the city.
But since the magnet school will be there only until its new facility is complete near the Colt Gateway project, the zoning issue shouldn't pose a problem, the city said Tuesday.
"This will be approved, I believe, because ... the academy is just there temporarily until a new school is built in about a year," said John F. Palmieri, the city's director of development services. "It's not an inconsistent use with our goals for downtown."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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