BERLIN — Businesses are already showing interest in five new buildings planned near the train station.
The town signed a purchase-and-sale agreement on May 23 with Newport Realty, the development firm the town is partnering with for design and construction of the project – Farmington and Steele.
In the weeks since the agreement was signed, Tony Valenti, who operates Newport Realty with fellow developer Mark Lovely of Southington said he’s had calls from businesses interested in leasing some of the planned 10,000 square feet of retail space in the two-story medical office building.
Economic Development Director Chris Edge said he’s hoping a handful of restaurants move into the new buildings and trigger further development.
“I think the Farmington and Steele (project) ... with the apartments and commercial, the medical office and the restaurants will help give us a downtown, a vibrancy that we don't currently have," he said.
Newport is sticking with its original concept, Valenti said, which calls for a new boulevard along Farmington Avenue curving to the eastern side of the train station, with the five buildings lining it.
Construction would be broken into phases, with work hopefully starting on the first three buildings in the fall and finishing in 2020, he said. Work on the final two buildings, which have 30 apartments each, would likely begin in 2020.
The purchase-and-sale agreement also transfers ownership of 861 Farmington Ave. to Newport for $85,000 within 30 days of the signing, just a few months after the town purchased the property for $280,000. When the town offered to sell at the appraised value, Newport negotiated a lower price, citing the cost of demolishing a garage in the rear of the parcel and anticipated renovation expenses.
The acquisition of that property, which used to be home to The Drain Doctor and Country Kitchen, reduces the scale of the environmental remediation required at 889 Farmington Ave., which was found to be contaminated after the town foreclosed on Pioneer Precision Products in 2009. Valenti said they plan to renovate the 85-year-old building and lease it.
Interim Town Manager Marek Kozikowski, who also serves as the town planner, said the next step is having site plans and special applications reviewed by the Planning and Zoning Commission, possibly in August.
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