In Cheshire, an old idea has re-emerged, although in a different form.
It was a disappointment for many in town, three years ago, when plans for a major mixed-use development centered on the interchange of Route 10 and I-691 fell through. And “major” may not even cover it: There were to be dozens of outlet stores in a “retail village,” along with townhouses, a hotel, a fitness center, restaurants, a public park and a nature trail. “The Outlets at Cheshire” was planned as a $100 million project.
But the hoped-for lead tenant, Tanger Factory Outlet Centers, pulled out of the project and the developer, W/S Development, was forced to cancel the whole thing.
Then, last year, town leaders had hoped to make the property more attractive to developers following the loss of the W/S deal by installing water and sewer infrastructure on the site for $1.5 million, but voters rejected the project at a referendum.
Now, though, it seems that the location has inspired a new development idea, although things are at a very tentative stage. The owners of most of the land in question are considering a retail, housing and office development and have had preliminary talks with the Cheshire Planning and Zoning Commission.
Representatives of Tri Star Development LLC and Miller, Napolitano and Wolff LLC, which were involved with W/S in the plan that collapsed in 2015, discussed a conceptual plan with commission members at a special meeting earlier this month. Drawings included restaurants, medical offices, retail buildings, assisted living apartments, a hotel and other residential property.
E.J. Kurtz III, chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, said no commission members had any major objections to the plan discussed, but stressed that it’s a small first step in a very long process, and that there’s not much the PZC can say to the developers at this stage.
The tax revenue from such a large project would be welcome, of course, but not everyone embraced the idea last time around: Would it bring more business to town, or simply drain trade from other parts of Cheshire? And what about street traffic?
But this is a very attractive location that will certainly be developed eventually, in some way.
It is to be hoped that the town’s leadership, having learned from the earlier experience, will make wise decisions about this new proposal.