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Harte aims to open Infiniti dealership next summer

WALLINGFORD — As Harte Motor Group moves forward with its plan to open an Infiniti dealership, town officials say they are looking forward to having another luxury automobile brand on Route 5.

The Harte Motor Group purchased the former Vinny’s Home and Garden Center, 1076 S. Colony St., for $1.2 million. Vinny’s closed after a February 2013 blizzard caused its roof to collapse.

The dealership will be built on a stretch of Route 5 that includes neighboring luxury car brands, including Porsche, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW. The Porsche and Audi dealership is located at 800 S. Colony St. The Mercedes-Benz and BMW dealerships are in North Haven, at 620 Washington Ave. and 610 Washington Ave., respectively.

Surrounded by competition, it was an ideal location to open an Infiniti dealership, said Gregory Harte, owner of the Harte Motor Group.

“In West Haven, we currently have our dealership on Route 34. It’s a decent location, but it doesn’t have competitor’s traffic. We’re fortunate enough to have found this property, where we are right in the middle of Audi and Porsche dealership and BMW and Mercedes,” Harte said. “This is kind of in our wheelhouse, where luxury buyers in New Haven County are buying.”

The Harte Motor Group has an Infiniti dealership in West Haven, which will be closed when the Wallingford location opens. A fire at the company’s Hartford location delayed the progress of the Wallingford dealership, Harte said, but the company is “forging forward in the next phases of the project.”

“We’re now flipping the switch on for full speed ahead for the Wallingford project,” Harte said. “We met with the site engineers last week and determined to raise the elevation of the property and we wanted to make it more customer friendly from an entrance standpoint.”

The dealership is expected to open by the end of summer 2015.

In July, the Harte Motor Group received approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission to increase the height of the glass used for the dealership’s showroom. The structure and footprint of the building remains the same at 22,000-square-feet on property totaling 2.3 acres.

Economic Development Specialist Tim Ryan said the Infiniti brand will draw more customers to town.

“It’s somewhat of a destination for automobile shopping,” Ryan said of Infiniti. “You have the Audi dealership and Mercedes and BMW down the street, but it helps make Wallingford a destination.”

Ryan added that building a dealership at the former Vinny’s site is a “great use” for the property and fits with surrounding businesses. Route 5 is known throughout the state as a place to shop for cars.

“For years, as you go down Wallingford, there’s dealerships that extend into North Haven,” he said.

Until the dealership is built and is open for business, it’s difficult to determine how much the town can make from taxes, according to Assessor Shelby Jackson. The company will be taxed for the real estate and the land, as well as any machinery and equipment used in business operation and repairs.

Cars at the dealership are considered inventory and aren’t taxable under state statute, Jackson added.

The Harte Motor Group has dealerships throughout the state, as well as in New York.

Harte’s grandfather, George Harte, founded Harte Chevrolet in Meriden in the 1950s. Harte said he was glad the company was still active in the Meriden/Wallingford area.

“This kind of rebirthing in Central Connecticut — with a real good franchise — is a really great position for ourselves and for our customers,” Harte said. (203) 317-2235 Twitter: @EricVoRJ

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