Stephen Rhodes, executive assistant to UConn President Michael Hogan, at an April 28, 2010 meeting on the status of the Storrs Center project.
Storrs is primarily known for two things: agriculture and hosting the main campus of the University of Connecticut.
Town officials, UConn staff, faculty and other community members are hoping this reputation changes with completion of a $220 million Storrs Center project, an effort to revitalize the town/university community by bringing in residential, commercial and retail development.
Last week, Mansfield town leaders and project organizers gathered at the Audrey P. Beck Municipal Building in Storrs to update the public on the project’s status.
Presenters said they anticipate construction will begin in 2011 and be completed in five to eight years.
“We’re super busy,” said Macon Toledano of Leyland Alliance, the organization hired in 2004 to be the master developer of the project. “Things are moving along.”
The project will be funded by a mix of private and government funding
The development team has been talking with People’s United and Citizen’s Bank in an effort to get them on board the project, which has cost the town $700,500 since the 2001-02 fiscal year.
A total of $125,000 is budgeted for fiscal year 2010-11.
“They’re very interested in funding the project,” Kaufman said.
The project began in 2001 with the formation of the Mansfield Downtown Partnership, a nonprofit organization coordinating the project, that hired Leyland Alliance.
“The UConn community is one of the few great universities in the country that doesn’t have a great main street,” said Howard Kaufman, executive vice president and general counsel for Leyland Alliance. “We are going to build that.”
The team is currently planning Phases 1A and 1B of the Storrs Center project, which will encompass almost 48 acres and run from Storrs Road/Route 195 to South Eagleville Road.
They are starting to design various buildings and negotiate with commercial and retail businesses. So far, 10 businesses – mostly restaurants – have signed letters of intent to rent space in Storrs Center.
The list includes businesses new to town, such as Moe’s Southwest Grill, Vanilla Bean Café (in Putnam), and Insomnia Cookies, and others that are relocating, such as Wings Over Storrs, Campus Cuts and Storrs Automotive.
“There really aren’t many spaces left,” said Toledano. “At this point, this process of identifying retail tenants is going very well.”
The development team also is currently in talks with several grocery stores.
Mansfield Town Manager Matthew Hart said added tax revenue from Storrs Center would help the town, especially since the town receives more than 40 percent of its operating revenues from the state of Connecticut, including reimbursement for tax-exempt state and federal properties.
“That’s very unique,” Hart said.
The forum also was an opportunity to hear about other projects in Storrs.
Stephen Rhodes, executive assistant to UConn President Michael Hogan, presented projects the UConn community is working on.
One of the most important UConn projects, he said, is reconfiguring the intersection of Mansfield Road and Route 195/Storrs Road, which was is tied to construction of new academic buildings.
One of the problems with the intersection is that Mansfield Road doesn’t line up with the entry to the Bishop Center across Route 195. “It makes for a very awkward and, frankly, dangerous, intersection,” Rhodes said.
Construction on the new intersection will begin in the summer and is expected to be finished by fall.
Lon Hultgren, public works director and town engineer for Mansfield, presented other modifications that will be made to Storrs Road/Route 195 as part of the Storrs Center project, including creating medians and travel lanes, and adding landscaping and new street lights.
The town also plans to build a wall along the west frontage of E.O. Smith High School, which is adjacent to UConn.
Posted May 5, 2010 as edited by HTNP.com Editor Brenda Sullivan