December 13, 2005
By JEFFREY B. COHEN, Courant Staff Writer
A major retail project is in the works for a 40-acre site off I-91 in Hartford's North Meadows, developers and city officials said Monday.
"We're dealing with a lot of large anchor tenants: Lowe's, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Target, Stop & Shop ...," said Adam Winstanley, a principal with Winstanley Enterprises LLC, one of the developers. "We haven't signed any deals, but we have more interest from retailers than space available."
The proposed 375,000-square-foot project, which is still in the early planning phases, would be part of a multiparcel deal in the North Meadows, an old industrial area dominated by car dealerships.
The site could have two large anchor stores, smaller stores and a free-standing restaurant, Winstanley said. He said he expects to make an announcement regarding tenants in January.
A supermarket, which residents and city officials say the city needs, could also be in the mix, he said.
"It's something that we know is important to the city, and I can't say anything definite, but that is something that we're working on and that looks positive at this point," he said.
Winstanley Enterprises, based in Concord, Mass., owns 4.5 million square feet of industrial and biotech space in Connecticut, he said. When the company bought the Advo site and adjacent land for $6.65 million in January, its first goal was to market it as industrial space.
"But I got more calls from retail tenants than I did from industrial tenants," Winstanley said. "They sort of found us."
Location and demographics make it a prime spot for retail, he said. It is next to an interstate, and more than 90,000 people live within a 3-mile radius.
"With all the residential development in downtown Hartford, the North Meadows is a natural extension," Winstanley said. "There's no real good shopping immediately close to the city, so the more that we looked into it, the more sense it made for us to do a retail project."
And downtown development "means a lot to the retailers," he said. "It's a market that makes more sense now than it did five or 10 years ago."
The 40-acre site is made up of three parcels: the former site of direct-mail marketing company Advo Inc., the current site of the commercial truck company Edart Leasing Co. LLC, and a roughly 10-acre vacant parcel between the two. The two property owners have signed a joint-venture deal to develop their two properties, Winstanley said.
If they are successful, Edart would need a new corporate headquarters, and it has it eyes on roughly 12 acres of city-owned land near the Connecticut Expo Center. Last week, the city's redevelopment agency named Edart the tentative developer of that land.
At a cost of $2.75 million, Edart would construct a 10,000-square-foot corporate headquarters and a 20,000-square-foot service building on three city-owned parcels on New Road near the Connecticut Expo center, city records show.
"There is interest, and, as a result of the interest, the parties are going ahead and preparing themselves so that if the opportunity does arise, they have the ability to move, and move very quickly," said Coleman Levy, attorney for the North Meadows retail project.
"It's fascinating to even consider that the North Meadows would be considered to be a potentially viable retail area," he said.
But before the city will sell Edart the land that would allow it to move from one city location to another, the company will have to prove it has a viable retail plan for the land it is leaving behind.
"I think they know what they're doing," Mayor Eddie A. Perez said. "They have a capable team. And we've said yes, we will support them to explore and invest [research and development] money."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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