By JEN CARDINES
“I special-ordered this perfect weather,” Liz Hyatt, Southington Chamber of Commerce executive director, said, joking with town officials and other chamber members as they gathered on the manicured lawn of the Plantsville green.
On Wednesday, June 14, the heat let up and the sun seemed to smile on the gathering of town officials, business owners, and members of the Village of Plantsville Association as they prepared for their annual walking tour of downtown Plantsville. The event is one of two chamber-sponsored tours of the town’s downtown business areas.
The purpose of the tour was to explore economic development, challenges, and projects in this unique commercial district. Town Manager Garry Brumback and Town Attorney Mark Sciota, along with town planner Rob Phillips, director of public works Keith Hayden, town engineer Annette Turnquist, and assistant town engineer Jim Grappone, spoke about the town’s challenges, triumphs, and ongoing projects in downtown Plantsville.
Hyatt, Dawn Miceli, town councilor and the chamber’s economic development committee (EDC) chair, Robert Flood, executive committee member, and a handful of other chamber members offered the business perspective.
During the traditional stroll, town and chamber members had an opportunity to exchange ideas for enhancing the area, suggest improvements, speak with local business owners and employees, and to see how things are progressing downtown. This year, the tour visited three businesses in the heart of Plantsville, giving business owners an opportunity to express concerns.
“This is our second downtown,” Brumback said about Plantsville. “Recognizing the contributions that these folks are making and giving them the same kind of treatment that we did to Center Street downtown is essential.”
The group spoke to Plantsville business owners about challenges with downtown parking and access, which town officials are monitoring. They discussed potential plans for reconstructing the intersection where Route 10 meets West Main Street.
“Right now it’s before the Department of Transportation and Capitol Region for review,” Grappone said. “We just sent them some traffic data so hopefully we can get a commitment to fund letter which is about $2.4 million of 100 percent grants.”
Town officials spoke to local business owners about crumbling sidewalks and lingering street parking issues that town officials hope to address over the next few years, depending on the budget.
Vietnamese restaurant V Nam Kitchen, 13 West Main Street, is celebrating one year in business, and while foot traffic has been steady, owner Michelle Marshall said that a big issue is parking.
The tour also stopped in Soul Space yoga and wellness center at 26-28 West Main Street, which has been there for five years. Because the center is so close to V Nam, tenants experience similar parking issues.
The final leg of the walk included a stop into Lorenc’s Pizza just days after it opened. Many locals probably know the 848 South Main Street location as Plantsville Pizza, but Lorenc Pergjoni recently took ownership and renovated it. That parcel has its own parking lot for customers to utilize so Pergjoni said he has no trouble there.
However, Pergjoni said the street is very dark at night, and the lighting with his signage doesn’t illuminate enough.
“Once the sun goes down, it’s hard to tell we’re open,” he said.
Town officials and chamber members took the constructive comments to plan for future changes.
“This is how we grow and get better,” Brumback said. Aside from the parking, plans include better branding and marketing for the Village of Plantsville.
The downtown Southington walk will take place on Thursday, June 22 at 10 a.m.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Jen Cardines, email her at JCardines@SouthingtonObserver.com.
Photos by JOHN GORALSKI