BERLIN — The developers behind a five-building, mixed-use development plan on Farmington Avenue have entered into a contract to purchase Depot Crossing, a prominent 25,000-square-foot, mixed-use building that has struggled to attract commercial tenants since its completion about five years ago.
Anthony Valenti, co-principal with Newport Realty, said the firm entered into a contract to purchase the property, which is currently owned by the Hartford-based Corporation for Independent Living, and are performing due diligence before closing sometime this year. Representatives of CIL were not available for comment.
“We haven’t closed on it yet, but there’s a reason for the interest. We just like Berlin, we like the market. We’re already going to be in the market with the larger development,” Valenti said, referring to their ongoing transit-oriented development across Farmington Avenue.
Valenti said he and Southington developer Mark Lovely, his business partner with Newport, have a record of working with small businesses to keep their rents affordable and have a history of maintaining zero vacancies in their properties.
“We understand what it takes for mom and pop tenants to succeed. We’re very efficient with our scope and cost of build out. We understand there’s a limit to how much we can charge for rent in Berlin,” he said. “It’s not magic, but you’ve really got to work with these smaller mom and pop tenants.”
They’re already in talks with one potential tenant for a portion of the nearly 9,000- square-feet of commercial or office space on the building’s first floor and are seeking more. They’re also planning on changing the property’s name to include “Newport” — though a final title has yet to be decided on.
Economic Development Director Chris Edge said re-opening the train station and Newport’s development plan across the street is already inspiring fresh interest in the downtown area. He said it holds a lot of potential for new restaurants, medical offices or service-oriented businesses — the sort of enterprises he believes will thrive and fill a market in demand on Farmington Avenue.
The site has already benefited from a change to mixed use after it was purchased by CIL, Edge said, allowing the upper two floors to be converted from office space to 16 residential apartments, which are already occupied.
“Having the apartments — people who spend money as well as the commercial below — I think it’s a vital piece to the rejuvenation of the area by the train station,” he said. “I would love to see the entire bottom floor be leased out or turned into commercial condos.”