It’s an understandable source of frustration that after more than three years there remains no commercial tenant at 24 Colony St. in Meriden. The entire 10,000 square feet of first floor commercial space is still empty. It is situated below apartments, at the corner of Church and Colony streets, overlooking the new train station in the heart of downtown.
Because it’s a signature effort in the overall push to renew Meriden’s downtown area, the glaring lack of progress is a ripe target for cynics, and the danger is that the negative perception city officials are working so hard to counter will prevail.
So now is the time to step back and analyze what is going on in the interest of moving forward. And that, at least, is what is about to take place.
Westmount Management Co. and the Meriden Housing Authority are the partners with city and state government in the $22 million project, and the onus is now on the two entities to come up with a strategy.
It should be noted that Meriden Commons I, also a mixed-use development downtown, in the Transit Oriented District, has managed to draw NY Deli and Krispy Krunchy Chicken to fill some of the first floor commercial space. In other words, it can be done.
The expectation among city officials is that Westmount and the Housing Authority can do something similar, by working with potential tenants. City Councilor David Lowell, chairman of the Economic Development Housing and Zoning Committee, has asked Economic Development Director Joseph Feest to work with them to come up with a marketing strategy.
It’s worth pointing out that the task at hand is challenging, and that the mission of returning vitality to the downtown area of Meriden is not something that can be accomplished instantly. New approaches may be in order.
The Making Meriden Business Center has been involved. “While we were happy to assist making connections, we have encouraged the city and the 24 Colony management team to review pricing and procedures and to adopt a more flexible and creative approach to filling the space,” said Making Meriden Business Center’s Lisa Biesak.
That kind of insight will be helpful, as will the report Feest is to deliver to elected officials. While impatience is understandable, it’s not going to help as much as constructive ideas and a willingness to explore different ways of meeting the challenge.