MERIDEN — Hawks circle in the sky and hit the roof and walls with a thud at the vacant Lowe’s on East Main Street.
“You can hear them,” said Sharon L. Flanagan, co-owner of nearby Valencia Liquor & Wine Shop. “It’s like something out of a Hitchcock movie.”
Environmental crews enter and exit the building to address a mold problem inside, a security officer said this week.
The Meriden Parkade plaza, which sits on the far end of East Main Street just before Research Parkway, remains untouched by a recent surge of development in the area. Ion Bank built a new branch, Family Dollar left the plaza for a new stand alone building. The new Huxley’s Bookmark Cafe and Taino Prime restaurant have drawn new traffic to the stretch that extends east beyond the Interstate-91 interchange.
But the cavernous Lowe’s Home Improvement Center is a reminder of big box retail’s struggles following a rapid expansion. The store closed abruptly in August 2011 after being open for three and a half years. City officials said Lowe’s lease still has seven years left on it.
City Economic Development Director Joseph Feest credited city tax incentives for the recent development along East Main. The abatement program was renewed in January and extended along Research Parkway. The City Council also approved a similar incentive package to promote west side development.
Under the terms of the program, the city manager can negotiate a written agreement with any party owning or proposing to purchase property. Improvements valued at more than $3 million can receive a seven-year abatement, while those valued at $500,000 or more may receive a two-year abatement, and projects valued at greater than $25,000 are eligible for a 50 percent reduction on the increased assessment for three years.
"This is just to show those that are investing in Meriden that we're going to help them out a little bit at the beginning," City Council Minority Leader Dan Brunet, vice chairman of the council's Economic Development, Housing and Zoning Committee, said this month when the program was extended to the west side.
Improvements at the Lowe’s site and the Meriden Parkade plaza would be eligible for the incentive zone tax abatement, Feest said.
“The property does fit into our East Main Street program that runs on both sides of East Main,” Feest said.
Feest said the last time he was in contact with Lowe’s was in January when a real-estate company put up a for sale sign by accident listing Lowe’s for sale.
“As you know they don’t own the land and are leasing it so you can’t sell something you don’t own,” Feest said.
The property is owned by Denmeri Associates of North Kingston, Rhode Island. The 200,000 square foot Lowe’s building and garden center is valued at $14 million.
A member of the Denmeri real estate department could not be reached for comment but a listing on LoopNet commercial real estate site has been deleted. A spokeswoman for Lowe’s said the company was unable to comment on store activity.