By TAYLOR HARTZ
Southington will have a new downtown destination, with plans moving forward for a new retail and dining center along the rails-to-trails downtown project.
Modeled after The Promenade Shops at Evergreen Walk in South Windsor, the Planning and Zoning Commission (PZC) heard plans last week for the seven-building and 80-parking space destination.
Kathy Rickard, owner of Cranberry Cove, LLC, purchased the land at 84 and 102 West Center St. years ago when she envisioned the open-concept shopping plaza. Rickard said she wants the development to feel like Main Street USA at Disney World.
“We hope to make it a destination with front porches and benches down by the water,” said Rickard.
Joe Eddy, principal architect from AE Design Group, said the 3.9-acre lots are set to have a “small time village effect” while “keeping to a walking traffic concept” that the linear trail has created in the area.
The rendered plans feature interior walkways and sidewalks connecting to the trails, a courtyard with benches and bike racks, and renaissance-themed lampposts and building facades.
Each of the buildings will be single-story, designed in a matching theme that Rickard hopes will resemble a Cape Cod village.
Eddy said they plan to keep each building small in scale to attract “upscale retailers and restaurant chains in small packages.” The larger buildings will not exceed 4,700 square feet, with the smaller shops ranging from 2,200 to 2,400 square feet.
A public hearing was held at the PZC meeting on Jan.5, to discuss plans for the promenade-style shops being considered for the two land parcels. Town Chairman Mike Riccio spoke during the public hearing to voice his support for the project.
“This is what we dreamed about 20-years ago when talking about the downtown renaissance,” said Riccio, “This is an out-of-the-park homerun.”
The PZC heard a presentation from Cranberry Cove, LLC, and Sterling Trust Company Custodian, in which a zoning change and special permit were requested.
Stephen Giudice of Harry Cole & Son in Plantsville represented the application, requesting a change of the properties from an I-1 industrial zone (light manufacturing but includes business such as greenhouses, health clubs, and communications) to a B business zone (mainly retail and service).
Giudice also filed a special permit request, necessary for planning multiple retail buildings on the site.
“We believe this is a natural extension of the business zone,” said Giudice, referencing a business zone already in place north of the property, “We think the industrial zone in this area is a little bit out of place.”
The 3.9 acres of land currently houses oil tanks and factory buildings.
“We’re proposing to redevelop the site in its entirety, and this is the first step in the process,” said Giudice.
After discussion between PZC members, the first step in the project was approved—both the zone change and special permit request were voted for unanimously.
PZC member Paul Chaplinsky made the stipulation that the concept should be consistent with the renaissance theme, with lighting fixtures and walkways that are similar in nature.
“The idea is to have a consistent theme throughout the site that is very architecturally pleasing”, Giudice told the PZC, “We think the buildings and structures are in harmony with the surrounding areas.”
PZC member Jennifer Clock said she thinks the project is the start of a great community development.
“Once completed this site will be one-of-a-kind in Southington” said Giudice, of plans for “a family-friendly use” of the site that is designed to serve as an extension of the Rails to Trails.
“There’s nothing like this in any other town along the trail and we think this is going to be a gem in town”, said Giudice.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Taylor Hartz, email her at THartz@SouthingtonObserver.com.