BRATTLEBORO - The state has given the green light to a 2-megawatt solar project along Interstate 91 in Brattleboro, clearing the way for construction of one of Vermont's largest photovoltaic facilities.
In issuing a certificate of public good to WE 90 Technology Drive LLC, state Public Service Board officials said the project "will not have an undue adverse effect on aesthetics, historic sites, air and water purity, the natural environment, the use of natural resources and the public health and safety."
In short, officials wrote that the solar array will "promote the general good of the state."
The project was proposed last year by Winstanley Enterprises LLC, based in Concord, Mass. Company representatives could not be reached for comment on Monday.
Reportedly, the project could include as many as 8,300 solar panels, though the Public Service Board says the array's "exact wattage, number of panels and panel configuration will be determined at the time of final design and procurement ... by the contractor."
The project site at 90 Technology Drive, according to state documents, is a vacant, 15-acre parcel "wedged between Interstate 91 and an industrialized area north of Brattleboro." The Holiday Inn Express sits immediately to the north.
There will be approximately 1,050 poles, buried electric lines, associated electrical equipment and a 600-foot-long access drive.
There were no major objections to the project. From the state's perspective, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets got involved in the permitting process, as did the Department of Public Service and the Agency of Natural Resources.
Locally, Windham Regional Commission reviewed the proposed solar facility and "concluded that the project was consistent with the goals and policies of the regional plan and proposed that the project take steps to mitigate the impacts to the viewshed of travelers on Interstate 91 and the potential loss of prime agricultural soils."
And at the town level, the Public Service Board notes that Brattleboro Planning Commission sought public comment on the solar facility.
"Comments were received from the Conservation Commission, the Agricultural Advisory Committee, the Town Energy Coordinator and some members of the public," board members wrote. "The majority of the comments were positive, though there were specific concerns about the potential for negative visual impact, glare and future use of agricultural soils at the project site."
Upon hearing of the state's approval of the project on Monday, Brattleboro Selectboard Chairman David Gartenstein noted that there had been aesthetic concerns.
"The town of Brattleboro is in favor of green energy projects and production of energy through renewable sources. Concerns have been expressed about the visual impact of a large solar array placed in a very visible location directly along I-91 in Brattleboro," Gartenstein said.
"The (Public Service Board), however, concluded that public hearings on the project were not necessary," Gartenstein said. "We wish Winstanley the best of success in construction of the project."
In defense of the decision to not hold a public hearing, Public Service Board members pointed to memorandums of understanding that the solar project's developers reached with the state agencies.
"We appreciate the efforts of all concerned to address these issues and prepare appropriate mitigation requirements," board members wrote.
Because of those memorandums, the Winstanley solar petition "no longer raised substantial issues requiring a hearing, and therefore no hearing was needed," the board's certificate says.
The document addresses aesthetic and environmental concerns as well as a variety of other details:
The Public Service Board's order says the project "will not violate a clear, written community standard intended to preserve the aesthetics or scenic beauty of the area."
The solar array will be visible from both I-91 and Technology Drive. In reference to the latter road, "this area has an industrial character and views will be most possible during times that deciduous vegetation is defoliated," board members wrote.
For the highway, "views will be limited to an approximate 1,000-foot stretch of interstate closest to the project and will be possible when traveling both northbound and southbound," the board's order says.
"Views will be intermittent, broken by clumps of existing vegetation," officials added. "Visibility will be under 15 seconds when traveling this portion of the interstate."
The board also addresses glare concerns, saying that will not be an issue for I-91 drivers.
"To reduce any possibility of glare, all the solar panels will utilize an anti-reflective coating with less than 2 percent reflectivity, like those often required for use at solar fields adjacent to airports," PSB documents say.
The state Agency of Agriculture had expressed concerns about topsoil at the project site, though developers have said they had not found evidence of high-quality agricultural soil there.
An order accompanying the certificate of public good says "topsoil disturbed during construction and stockpiled on site shall be seeded and mulched and stabilized" in accordance with state standards.
"The solar arrays will be installed to conform with the natural slope of the land with minimal ground alteration," board members added.
Soil conservation also figures into the project's decommissioning.
"At the end of the useful life of the project, the project infrastructure will be removed, including the arrays, mounting poles, buildings, fence and concrete supports, and the site will be restored including the agricultural capability of the soils," the state's certificate says.
The certificate of public good calls for establishment of a decommissioning plan and fund. The costs of decommissioning the solar array were estimated at $129,900 in 2013 dollars; that cost "will be adjusted annually to account for inflation using the Consumer Price Index."
While noting short-term noise impacts, the state's order says construction can take place only within certain hours -- from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. No construction could happen on Sundays or on federal or state holidays.
An anticipated construction schedule was not available Monday. But the Public Service Board's order says "construction of the project will begin once all (certificate of public good) conditions have been fulfilled and is anticipated to take approximately 90 days."
BRATTLEBORO - A local company has been chosen to lead the construction of the 2-megawatt solar array that developers hope to install off of Technology Drive in Brattleboro.
Integrated Solar will partner with REC Solar, a national alternative energy financing and wholesale company, on the solar photovoltaic project slated for land along Interstate 91.
Winstanley Enterprises owns the land and is leading the project.
"This system will provide enough power to bring clean electricity to meet 9 percent of Brattleboro's annual energy needs and 40 percent during peak hours, while fueling local construction jobs," said Integrated Solar president and owner Andy Cay.
REC will help with the bonding and also help purchase the panels. The company has helped build more than 11,000 residential and commercial solar systems across the country.
"This project will play a critical role in helping Vermont reach its ambitious renewable energy goals," said Cary Hayes, director of business development for REC Solar. "We're honored to have been selected to develop the system, and we're looking forward to working with a strong and experienced local partner, Integrated Solar, to get it done."
Dan Ingold, the project's senior technical director, said Winstanley hopes to hold at least one public information meeting before workers begin installing the solar array in the spring. Winstanley wants to install about 8,300 solar panels on 1,040 posts on the parcel of land along the Interstate.
If the project is built it will be one of the largest solar installations in the state.
Winstanley asked the Public Service Board for a Certificate of Public Good under the state's expedited 248(j) permitting process because the company wanted to take advantage of a federal accelerated depreciation schedule that expires at the end of this year.
Winstanley's request to proceed under the accelerated permitting process, which is generally used to consider smaller projects, ended up taking more time to process. Last week the PSB agreed to consider the petition under the 248 (j) schedule, which does not require any public or technical hearings. The PSB still has to rule on the project and issue a Certificate of Public Good before construction can begin.
Ingold said the developers still want to encourage public input as contractors lay out the plans for the solar array.
"We can't have a hearing, because that's the Public Service Board's purview," Ingold said Tuesday. "But we are open to having a meeting and presenting to the public, especially the planning and town officials, anything they want to go over with us. We want this to be as transparent as possible."
Ingold is going to work with the Windham Regional Commission and the town to try to set up a public meeting probably some time in the new month or two.
He said construction could start in April and probably go into August.
With the PSB's decision to proceed under the expedited process, Ingold said developers are meeting with state agencies, including the Agency of Natural Resources, Agency of Agriculture Food & Markets and the Department of Public Service to address any concerns that the state might have with the project.
Ingold said Winstanley wants to get memorandums of understanding with the state agencies which will become a part of the final petition for the certificate of public good.
The Agency of Agriculture is concerned about the top soil on the site, though Ingold said recent tests show that the land there is not high quality agricultural soil.
The land there was a farm, according to Ingold, but when the parcel was sold in the 1980s topsoil was removed and sold.
There have also been issues raised about adverse aesthetic impacts, and Ingold said the company is still figuring out how it wants to shield and protect the solar panels. A fence will have to go up for security reasons, Ingold said, but options range from a chain link fence to an agricultural fence. There are also split opinions on if the solar panels should be hidden from view, or promoted as a welcome to the state and to Vermont's commitment to alternative energy.
Ingold said that is one of the issues that could be addressed at a public meeting.
"If we had an inordinate amount of public comment, we would probably deliver that to the Public Service Board when they put together their final conditions," Ingold said.
BRISTOL - In the city's biggest-ever real estate deal, an Illinois-based investor this week paid $42 million to buy the property that houses ESPN's North Campus.
"It's great to see companies not only investing in Bristol, but investing big money," Mayor Ken Cockayne said Saturday.
He said the sale "will only help our marketing of Bristol as we continue to look for companies to move here."
One immediate benefit of the sale, Cockayne said, is that the city got $210,000 in conveyance taxes from the deal, an unexpected windfall.
Winstanley Enterprises, which bought the Middle Street property in 2002 for $6.75 million, sold it Friday to Bristol Sports Center DST, a trust incorporated in Delaware that filed paperwork three weeks ago with the Connecticut secretary of the state indicating it planned to do business in Connecticut.
The new buyer listed an business address in Oak Brook, Ill., in a building that also houses the Inland Real Estate Group of Companies, Inc., a 40-year-old operation that bills itself as "one of the nation's largest commercial real estate and finance groups."
Efforts to reach the new owner by phone and email Saturday were unsuccessful.
Mike Soltys, an ESPN vice president, said the only change the deal means for his company is that it will have a new landlord for the North Campus facility.
In recent years, he said, ESPN has "invested significantly in the building to convert it from an old factory to high quality office environment" that has everything from a gym to a top-notch cafeteria. It holds a massive tape library as well.
ESPN controls almost everything inside the building, which has been completely overhauled to create an office environment comparable to the rest of ESPN's high standards. A giant Rock 'Em Sock 'Em robot statue greets visitors in a central corridor of the North Campus, whose walls are lined with sports banners.
Winstanley bought the 400,000-square-foot former Superior Electric factory after the manufacturer shut down all but one of its divisions there after operating for 60 years in Bristol. The factory was erected in the 1950s after the closure of an airport on the 39-acre property.
Winstanley, a private Massachusetts firm, won approval in 2008 to build a three-story office building beside the old factory, facing the new industrial park. It was supposed to go up in 2009, but the recession caused the owner to put the project on hold.
Inland Real Estate said on its website the portfolios it owns and manages total "more than 83.4 million square feet of diversified commercial real estate with managed assets with a book value in excess of $19.7 billion" spread across the nation.
City officials hope the move by Bristol Sports Center DTC helps spur more interest in the city's potential.
The mayor said he and other city officials met with a possible tenant for the city industrial park that neighbors the North Campus site on Thursday.
"Bristol is open for business and as mayor I will continue working to attract businesses," Cockayne said.
Two tenants have been announced at the what will be known as Chelmsford Town Center. It's scheduled to open next July.
Winstanley Enterprises, re-developers of the plaza at what once was the Stop & Shop Plaza on Boston Road, provided two major announcements on Tuesday relating to the rebirth of what once was a major shopping center in the heart of town.
A contract was signed on Tuesday morning awarding renovation of the old Stop & Shop Plaza, now known as Chelmsford Town Center, to Pinnacle Construction of Tewksbury, with work to begin immediately.
Construction was expected to begin on Nov. 15, but a small design delay related to the facade of the building pushed back finalization on the beginning of construction according to Adam Winstanley, founder of Winstanley Enterprises.
Winstanley also announced lease agreements with two tenants: Choice Fitness and Nobo Modern Japanese and Bar.
Choice Fitness will take up the 17,000 sq. ft flagship portion of the plaza closest to Summer Street, with Nobo occupying one of the two 5,000 sq. ft restaurant slots. A third tenant, SportsClips Haircuts, was announced on 12/11.
Construction is expected to be concluded on July 24, 2014.
Three boys watched a beaker's contents intently, giggling as the swirling liquid turned into neon pink slime.
The boys and roughly 25 other 9- and 10-year-olds from a summer program run by the youth agency LEAP got a glimpse into the lives of scientists when they donned lab coats, safety goggles, and purple gloves to take part in a slime-making experiment at Kolltan Pharmaceuticals.
The experiment Thursday marked the first visit by kids to the cancer research and development company, but just one of many academic and social experiences provided by the not-for-profit LEAP's six-week summer program. LEAP exposes children from high-poverty urban areas to a variety of enrichment activities, from African dance to rock climbing to robotics to reading. This summer, 400 children aged 6 to 21 have taken part in the program, said Executive Director Esther Massie. The program also runs during the school year.
The real estate developer Winstanley Enterprises - from which Kolltan leases its space at 300 George St. - helped arrange the field trip. Carter Winstanley, a principal of Winstanley Enterprises, took part in the slime-making with the kids.
The young New Haveners worked alongside Kolltan's research scientists from start to finish. After getting a tour of the lab's facilities and equipment - a machine to purify medicines that costs as much as a car, a freezer with cells collected more than 50 years ago - kids began making slime in a new section of the lab opened in May to prepare for clinical trials.
Working in small groups led by the scientists, kids carried out six different reactions before comparing their results. Each reaction involved a different combination of a polymer - a large molecule made up of repeating subunits - and a linker to bind these molecules together. Polymers include well-known materials like nylon, teflon, and plastics and make up a whole host of products.
After adding a polymer to their beakers, students added magnets to stir the liquid and then the linker drop by drop. "Oh cool!" a boy exclaimed as the liquid suddenly formed a gel that wiggled in the beaker. Adding food coloring led to slimes that spanned the color spectrum: red, blue, yellow, green. One girl held her slime over the edge of the lab's countertop - with a scientist holding his hand beneath in case the gel dropped - and used gravity to stretch the bright blue substance as far as it would go.
After one group had made a few slimes, another girl started to lead the experiment herself, adding the components without the need for instruction. "Do we have time to make another one?" she asked, six petri dishes filled with slime already stacked up next to her.
The scientist laughed, then helped the group start the next combination. "She is going to be running experiments" someday, a summer counselor said.
Throughout the process, Kolltan's researchers tried to give students a sense of what it means to be a scientist. The wife of researcher Ed Natoli teaches chemistry at a school in New London and designed the experiment to give LEAP's students a lab experience. While one of the polymers was just Elmer's glue, Natoli explained, the lab's scientists use linkers and polymers in their own research.
When one group pointed out that its slime had started spinning more slowly, a researcher didn't just offer up an answer. Instead, he helped the kids think through the question.
Once students had made all their slime, they gathered in a conference room to discuss their findings. Was each slime sticky? Or stretchy? Did it change shape? Students simulated a polymer by standing at the front of the room and linking arms. Holding their arms extended as far as they could simulated long linkers, like those in the slimes that stretched. Arms held tightly by their sides mimicked the short linkers in rigid slimes.
With brightly colored slime that formed every time, the morning's experiment had given the kids experience with research-lite - fast and consistent results, easy analysis. Vice President of Research Yaron Hadari shared with students the commitment and hard work needed for actual scientific research. "Science is a very long process," he said, describing the journey from asking questions to experimenting to measuring and analyzing results. "To get the answer," he said, "it requires many years of dedicated work."
For 9-year-old Onjya Fortt, playing with the slime proved a highlight of the experience. Added research scientist Ada Vaill, mixing the polymers and linkers in the lab allowed students to see a chemical change, but playing with the slime allowed them to physically feel the transformation. "It was cold!" Fortt noted.
At the end of the visit, students left the lab in a line, toting their new lab coats and bunches of brightly colored slime. Researcher Sandy Rocks said she hoped the kids would bring the slime home and show it off to their siblings. Rocks realized she wanted to become a scientist in sixth grade, she said. Maybe, some of LEAP's kids will do the same.
Less than two years ago, the joint venture team of Winstanley Enterprises and Surrey Equities acquired the historic Norwichtown Mall with a vision of rejuvenating the shopping center into thriving retail space.
Recently the development team gathered with business, political and community
leaders at a public event to celebrate the official grand opening of Norwichtown Commons.
State senator Cathy Osten, state representative Kevin Ryan, Mayor Peter Nystrom, city manager Alan Bergren and several members of the city council headlined a group of dignitaries joining Winstanley Enterprises and Surrey Equities to celebrate this official milestone. The group recognized the community effort that was put forward to make the project a success, and also showcased the retailers that call Norwichtown Commons home.
The development team broke ground on Norwichtown Commons in May of 2012, and
has reconfigured the mall into an open air retail complex of 160,000 s/f. The former mall now features improved parking and visibility.
Norwichtown Commons currently features Stop & Shop, Dress Barn, Lucky House
restaurant Fancy Nails, Hair Cuttery, Petsense, Dollar Tree and Big Lots. Soon to open will be Planet Fitness and Yogurt City, while a few retail spaces remain available for lease. "We could not be more proud to see the vision that we had nearly two years ago transformed into reality here today," said Adam Winstanley, a principal of Winstanley Enterprises.
"We especially applaud the retailers who have chosen Norwich as your home for years to come," said Edward Silvera, president and principal of Surrey Equities. "This community has fond memories of the Norwichtown Mall, and now has the chance to create future memories here at Norwichtown Commons."
Thirteen years after the city "forced" Alexion from Science Park out to the suburbs, the fast-growing pharmaceutical company returned with shovels and a pledge to take part in a "renaissance" in downtown New Haven.
Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. brought out the shovels Monday morning to a shut-down stretch of the Route 34 Connector, marking the groundbreaking of a new, 11-story building called 100 College Street. The building marks the first phase of Downtown Crossing, the city's effort to stitch back together neighborhoods torn apart by an urban-renewal-era highway to nowhere.
Alexion will be the anchor tenant inside developer Carter Winstanley's $100 million building, to be built inside Route 34 between College and York streets. The company hosted the groundbreaking ceremony Monday morning in a white tent amid the just-started construction east of the Air Rights Garage.
The move marks a homecoming of sorts for the company, which was founded in 1992 by Leonard Bell, a Yale Medical School graduate and professor. Bell started the company in a small space at Science Park, moved to Cheshire in 2000, and plans to return in 2015 when 100 College Street is ready. The move comes with the promise of up to $51 million in state aid.
From the podium Monday, Mayor John DeStefano (pictured) gave a frank analysis of Alexion's odyssey out of and back to New Haven.
"We did just about everything we could in 2000 to force Alexion out of the city," he said. "We should never do that again."
He later elaborated: In 2000, Alexion was born in shared offices inside Science Park, a transformation of the old Winchester Repeating Arms factory into a high-tech incubator for new businesses. DeStefano said at the time, "Science Park wasn't a good place" to run a business. Alexion complained that the building was too hot, and fire alarms kept going off.
"We made it hard for this little science start-up," DeStefano said. "Frankly, they got pissed off and left."
Winstanley recruited Alexion to a building he owned in Cheshire. Alexion left.
DeStefano said in the past decade, New Haven has improved on several fronts. Under President Rick Levin's leadership, he said, Yale "began to place a greater value on start-ups." New Haven also became a more attractive place to live and work, DeStefano said. He cited the low apartment vacancy rate and the flood of applications from developers looking to build apartments.
Third, he said, private developers-most prominently, Winstanley-emerged to welcome biotech companies to New Haven. Winstanley started with a former telephone company building on George Street, then expanded to Science Park.
In his quest to build 100 College Street, Winstanley received significant help from Yale: The university committed to leasing 100,000 square feet in the building, enabling the project to come together, noted Yale Vice-President Bruce Alexander (at left in photo with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy). The building was 100 percent leased even before shovels hit the ground, Alexander noted.
Alexion CEO Bell declined to get into much detail on why his company originally left New Haven.
"It was difficult to grow in that area," he said of Science Park.
In the past decade, Bell (at right in photo with U.S. Sen. Dick Blumenthal) said, "New Haven has improved markedly its ability to get things done." The "cooperation between Yale and the city had markedly improved," he added.
Alexander credited aldermanic President Jorge Perez with choosing to focus on a "business-friendly" initiative, a jobs pipeline called New Haven Works, instead of using the legislative process to enforce requirements that would thwart the project.
DeStefano said if New Haven wants to keep luring businesses, government should work to expand service to Tweed-New Haven Airport and rail service to New York.
Bell said the move will enable his company, which currently employs 350 people, to add at least another 200 employees. The move will enable the company to continue its mission of "transforming the lives of people" with ultra-rare, life-threatening diseases, he said.
By returning to New Haven, he said, Alexion will join an "exciting renaissance" in downtown New Haven.
"We're eager to get here without delay."
Two companies--one based in Massachusetts, the other based in New York City--have purchased the Rhode Island Mall for $38 million.
Winstanley Enterprises, LLC of Concord, MA, and Surrey Equities, LLC of New York, NY, have acquired the historic 450,000 square-foot Warwick, RI mall for $38 million. The seller was GLL Real Estate Partners from Orlando, FL.
The Rhode Island Mall's rich history
The Rhode Island Mall originally opened as the Midland Mall in 1967 as the first two-level enclosed shopping mall in New England. The mall portion of the property, totaling 225,000 square-feet, has been vacant since closing in April of 2011. The remaining stand-alone retail space is currently anchored by Sears, Wal-Mart, and Kohls.
"There is a rich history with this property, and we are very excited to breathe new life into the development by putting together a plan that will once again position the mall as a vibrant part of Warwick's retail hub," said Adam Winstanley, a Principal of Winstanley Enterprises.
A detailed plan and renderings are premature at this time, but the development team of Winstanley Enterprises and Surrey Equities intends to renovate the interior and exterior sections of the mall. The project goal would create larger tenant spaces that cater to anchor tenants.
"We look forward to working with the business and local community as well as city officials to create new jobs as this project moves forward," said Edward Silvera, president and principal of Surrey Equities. "We are eager to revitalize the vacant portion of the mall into a thriving retail space."
Jobs to Warwick
The project is anticipated to bring about 225 construction jobs to Warwick and about 150 permanent and part time jobs once the stores open. Preliminary concept design work and permitting is scheduled to continue throughout the next six to nine months.
The Rhode Island Mall is located at 650 Bald Hill Road in Rhode Island's retail capital of Warwick. The mall is conveniently positioned at the intersection of Route 2, I-95 and I-295.
Cushman & Wakefield represented the seller on the transaction and Eastern Retail Properties represented the buyers.
Winstanley Enterprises, LLC. currently owns and operates 43 buildings totaling approximately 5.5 million square feet throughout New England. Since the early 1990s, Winstanley has acquired in excess of 80 properties exceeding 10 million square feet of real estate throughout the eastern United States. The portfolio currently consists of a wide variety of commercial properties, including industrial/warehouse, R&D, office, Biotech, and retail.
Winstanley has completed several successful RI projects including acquisition and redevelopment of the former Hasbro Warehouse in Pawtucket, RI, and the acquisition and redevelopment of 10 Risho and 70 Catamore Blvd in the East Providence, RI industrial park.
Surrey Equities, LLC. is a real estate investment and management firm. Surrey Equities' mission is to acquire value-added investment opportunities throughout the eastern half of the United States and create a tailored strategy to achieve goals. In conjunction with their affiliate firm, Silvera Asset Group, LLC, Surry Equities own over 1,500,000 square feet. Their portfolio consists of retail, office and flex properties.
Developers presented modifications Wednesday night to the building plan for a retail center that will be known as "Chelmsford Commons" at the old Stop and Shop plaza across from the Adams Library on Boston Road.
"There's a building you see there with the faded metal, but everything will get ripped off, and everything will be all new," said Adam Winstanley, principal of Winstanley Enterprises, the plaza's new ownership group, of his plans for the retail center during the Planning Board meeting.
Construction will start as early as Sept. 1.
About a third of the current structure will be torn down because of asbestos, mold and water leakage in the former Stop and Shop, but the building that once housed Marshall's will be maintained and heavily renovated.
Developers plan to include a glass windowpane across the top of the building, adding natural light. The roof will be copper-colored metal, much more expensive than asphalt shingles, but worth it for its aesthetics and durability, Winstanley said.
"Adding color into retail is very important," he said. "There needs to be some vibrancy."
The space designated for a restaurant will have accordion-folding glass windows to create an open-space feel, developers said.
The Planning Board was unanimously behind the design concepts.
Although Winstanley was not prepared to announce which retailers might be coming to the plaza, he said he's received a lot of response from the market.
"We are getting a lot of interest in coming to this site," he said. "We're certainly headed in the right direction."
Winstanley's attorney Phil Eliopoulos said Winstanley has filed for a special health club permit in case that's something the plaza wants to include in the future.
A followup hearing is scheduled for July 10. The Planning Board expects to hear more about lighting fixtures, landscaping, parking lot traffic flow and signage lighting before moving forward.
WARWICK, R.I. Ñ The Rhode Island Mall's new owners say they plan to "breathe new life" into the property that has been mostly vacant since April 2011.
Winstanley Enterprises, of Concord, Mass., and Surrey Equities, of New York, announced on Thursday that they purchased the 450,000 square-foot property in Warwick from a Florida company for $38 million.
Adam Winstanley, of Winstanley Enterprises, said in a statement that they are putting together a plan to position the mall as a vibrant part of Warwick's retail hub.
They plan to redesign the mall's interior to create larger spaces for anchor tenants.
Standalone space on the property is occupied by Sears, Walmart, and Kohls.
The mall opened in 1967 as the Midland Mall.
Norwich - The dozens of business representatives, residents and city officials who walked into the former Norwichtown Mall for the last time Thursday thought back to their past favorite stores - Debutant, Beebe's Dairy, Caldor and Waldenbooks, among others.
But the mood wasn't somber or nostalgic but cheerful and excited, as the new mall owner displayed several poster boards with renderings of what will be the reconstructed Norwichtown Commons.
"This is exciting, jobs coming to Norwich," Human Services Director Beverly Goulet said.
More than 50 people gathered inside what used to be the main entrance into the Caldor department store to hear Adam Winstanley of Winstanley Enterprises LLC describe the $7.5 million project to tear down the center portion of the mall and replace it with a smaller plaza with stores that will each have their own entrances.
"As soon as everyone clears out of here," Winstanley said, "we're going to start knocking down the mall."
The project will bring about 350 construction jobs to the city and about 75 permanent jobs once the stores open, he said.
Winstanley Enterprises LLC of Concord, Mass., purchased the mostly vacant mall from Edens & Avant Investment Limited Partnership for $15.75 million last July and received permit approval a month later for the reconstruction plan.
The economy cannot support mid-size malls that once thrived in communities such as Norwich, Winstanley said. With Internet shopping growing, Winstanley and partner Surrey Equities couldn't find interest in the 100,000-square-foot former Caldor building at the end of the mall. So plans call for cutting that space in half, to 50,000 square feet, and marketing it to two "junior anchor stores" expected to be announced soon.
Overall, the size of the mall will be reduced from 300,000 square feet to about 168,000 square feet, Winstanley said. Phase one of construction will cover the section from the existing Dress Barn Store, already renovated, to the former Caldor space and is expected to be completed by Christmas.
Phase two, the reconstruction of the former Caldor space, is expected to start in the summer and be completed in early 2013.
Signed leases for the first phase include the existing Stop & Shop, which just signed a 10-year lease extension, and Dress Barn, as well as the return of Dollar Tree and Fancy Nails and a new PetSense, Hair Cuttery and Chinese restaurant.
Thousands of apartments, condos, cottages and lofts are coming to this suburb north of Hartford - and all of the housing is to be set in the heart of the town's sprawling corporate office corridor.
Called Great Pond Village, the $1 billion development is intended to give employees who now drive an average 35 minutes to work at the Day Hill Road office park the opportunity to ditch the commute altogether.
The idea is to "create the old New England village where we have a walkable, mixed-use village center," and enough housing choices to accommodate a variety of age groups, said David Winstanley, a principal with the developer, Winstanley Enterprises of Concord, Mass. The company is working in partnership with the property owner, ABB, a Swiss corporation specializing in power and automation technologies.
About 80 percent of Windsor's current residential stock is single-family homes, according to Peter Souza, the town manager. Some corporate employers have complained that the lack of housing diversity hurts their efforts to recruit younger workers.
"The town hasn't seen a new rental complex in more than 30 years," Mr. Souza said.
The development will mark the renewal of a 653-acre site that has undergone an intensive cleanup over the past decade for radiological and chemical contamination.
Beginning in the 1950s, Combustion Engineering performed research, development and manufacturing of nuclear fuel on the property under a contract with the Atomic Energy Commission. ABB acquired Combustion Engineering in 1990, and took on the lengthy cleanup process.
The final phase of remediation began in August 2009, and ABB anticipates spending a total of $140 million by the time the cleanup is complete, according to Bob Fesmire, a corporate spokesman. The company must satisfy standards set by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the state Department of Environmental Protection. About half the site was declared free of any contamination.
The thriving Day Hill Road office corridor provides some 20,000 jobs in a range of industries, including finance, insurance and transportation. Office buildings and service plazas line either side of the broad boulevard, save for a stretch taken up by fields of shade tobacco, a crop used for cigar wrappers. The approved master plan for Great Pond Village - named for a 20-acre pond on the property - calls for 4,010 new housing units (about half rentals), and 853,000 square feet of commercial space, including 85,000 square feet of neighborhood-style retail.
About half of the acreage in the development will become parks, or be set aside as conservation land. In particular, some 200 acres in the northern portion of the site, which borders the Farmington River and a 500-acre public park, will be left undisturbed.
The size of the project promises a significant expansion of Windsor's roughly 28,500-strong population, but the growth will be gradual. The project has a timeline of 14 to 20 years.
"This is a very forward-thinking land-use pattern," Mr. Souza said. "We're trying to look out over a longer horizon."
A study conducted by TischlerBise, a Maryland consulting firm, determined that tax revenues generated by the development will exceed town-borne costs for emergency services, schools and infrastructure by as much as $43 million over 20 years.
Windsor is one of a growing number of towns using high-density development to address problems like overburdened highways, unaffordable housing, suburban sprawl and dwindling numbers of young people.
Other towns have sought to place such development near mass transit, which is lacking at the 1970s-era Day Hill zone. Yet by putting housing within that zone, Windsor will help decrease auto dependence in the state capital region by making it easier for people to live near their workplaces, said David Kooris, the director of the Connecticut office of the Regional Plan Association, a tristate group.
Ideally, he added, the town would never have developed "this massive office corridor that sucked the life out of Hartford. But the reality is, all that office space is not going to go anywhere."
Windsor does have an Amtrak rail station with limited commuter-rail service. Long-term plans for high-speed rail service linking New Haven, Hartford and Springfield, over the Massachusetts border, may eventually result in shuttle service between Windsor's station and the Day Hill area, Mr. Souza said.
Mr. Winstanley says developers will initially pay for any needed public road and utility improvements. The legislature has granted the project Special Taxing District authority, so bonds may be issued after new buildings go on the tax rolls, and 50 percent of the property tax allocation will go to retire the bonds.
The first phase, which could be under way as soon as 2012, will include 400 housing units, Mr. Winstanley said.
He acknowledged that the poor economy could slow the project's progress, but said that housing market conditions might also work in its favor.
"I think there's going to be more people who can't afford houses or condos," he said. "And more people moving out of their houses because they can no longer afford them."