Newtown, CT A four-acre lot off I-84 sat vacant for almost a half a century. This overgrown, unsightly lot became an unwelcome sight for people arriving in town. But it did provide an excellent development opportunity and a chance to attract businesses to the town, not to mention providing the town with more tax revenue.
“The property is the first thing people see coming off the highway at Exit 10 and it had become an eyesore,” said Phil Clark, one of the new owners of the property and president of Claris Construction, the local design/build firm who erected the new facility.
Like any good opportunity, there are always barriers to success. The first hurdle was the need to address remediation at the site. Years ago, a dry cleaner operated on the property, which resulted in hazardous waste seeping into the soil. Working with a local LEP, a unique filtration system was devised and implemented to address the contamination. In addition, a wayward stream relocated during the construction of I-84 protruded into the heart of the property. It was necessary to move the stream back to its original path if the property was to accommodate any development. This could only be done by obtaining local and state approval, as well as working with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. These barriers, along with the typical challenges of a repurposed site required time, talent, and patience to overcome.
During the planning phase, it was determined that a national anchor chain was necessary to make the investment financially viable and that adding a drive-through would aid in attracting local customers, as well as those traveling on the interstate. However, at the time, the town did not allow drive-thru windows, so approval from the zoning board of appeals was necessary. The board had turned down all drive-thru requests in the past, so Claris’ team of architects and project managers put together a presentation that showed how developing this site brought value to the town. To the surprise of many, the board not only approved the drive-thru, but complemented the team on a building the town could be proud of. Its proximity to the interstate on and off ramps made it a no-brainer for everyone involved.
After five years of approvals, negotiations, designs, budgets, and proformas, Claris Construction and their investment partners are finally wrapping up construction on their new development. Starbucks, their anchor tenant, is scheduled to open this month. Installing Starbucks at the outset guaranteed that other businesses would seek to be in the same development. This has resulted in 10,900 s/f of the 12,000 s/f being leased at this time. Other tenants include a pizza shop, national cellular phone store, a liquor store and, ironically, a dry cleaner (drop off and pick-up only).
Bryan Atherton of Northeast Investment Realty handled all the transactions with the tenants and was instrumental with putting Starbucks and AT&T into the center. “It has been a pleasure to collaborate with Claris Construction to bring this project to the market. Having the reputation of Claris behind us has been instrumental in building confidence with the tenants we have brought to the table. With Claris involved there is no doubt that the space will be delivered on time and be of the highest quality in the market,” said Atherton.
The remaining 1,100 s/f of space would be the perfect location for a bank branch, because the site is already approved for a remote drive-up ATM.
Claris Construction is a design/build commercial construction company with three office locations in Newtown and West Hartford, CT, and Charlotte, NC. They have a staff of 32 professionals, including architects, project managers, superintendents, estimators, and administration. They implement an open book approach with all their clients creating a level of trust and transparency.
Project team includes:
- Claris Construction - Design/Builder
- Air Professional Associates, LLC - HVAC
- David Sousa Plumbing - Plumbing & HVAC
- J. Capuano & Sons - Painting & Wall Covering
- Bertozzi Electric LLC - Electrician
- Walsh Fence LLC - Fencing