MERIDEN — A self-storage business proposed for a former Stop & Shop at Centennial Plaza will provide space needed by local businesses and residents and help relieve a market overcrowded with food stores.
That's what one of the backers of the proposed self-storage business, DealPoint Merrill of Woodland Hills, California, said in a letter to the Record-Journal, its first press statement in defense of the plan since seeking a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals in October. That request is pending.
Neighborhood residents have taken to social media to express anger over the proposal and their preferences for a west side supermarket, which the area lacks. They said the west side already has self-storage units in Lincoln Plaza and at the Ion Bank plaza less than a mile away and that a supermarket is a better fit for the neighborhood.
Signed by company CEO David Frank, the letter listed what it regards as several merits to the $8 million project, including that it will support city businesses, renovate and upgrade the plaza, increase neighborhood rebuilding and serve a significant portion of city residents moving into or out of apartment houses in the area.
"Above all else, the Meriden market shows self-storage is an ideal use for this site," Frank said in the letter.
Mayor Kevin Scapati has strongly opposed the project. Saying that it brings no economic value to the area, Scarpati had pushed Stop & Shop to remain at Centennial Plaza and presented a petition of hundreds of signatures in an attempt to convince the grocer to stay. Some residents petitioned Trader Joe's to open at the site. The Stop & Shop eventually closed in the plaza last month. It continues to operate a store on Broad Street.
Market studies show that the area is oversupplied with grocery stores with a lack of storage space, said Frank, whose company operates more than 20,000 units nationwide as the fourth largest self-storage provider in the nation. There’s less than three square feet of storage per person in the local three-mile trade area, when industry standards hold that seven square feet per capita is the point at which supply meets demand, Frank said.
"Our submarket is comprised of between 40 percent to 48 percent apartments, which means there is a lot of population turnover, with consistent replacement demand as the population changes," Frank said.
The company's New Britain location, a former Shaw's supermarket, leases 30 percent of its space to local businesses. It also supports neighborhoods, Frank said.
"Homeowners are encouraged to store household items during renovation and upgrades of their homes because they can keep their valuable belongings in climate-controlled space," Frank said. "Our storage platform also seems to encourage people to stay and grow with the community, rather than move to areas that have high quality storage options."
The appeals board review of the project is continuing.