The Wallingford Planning and Zoning Commission has voted unanimously to amend downtown zoning regulations to allow street-level wellness centers as a permitted use. This is a big step forward for Dr. Tracy Malton, who bought the century-old building at 100 Center St. — a former Bank of America branch — in January with the goal of establishing a holistic health center.
And it can also be a step forward for Wallingford’s downtown district as a whole, the stated purpose of which — as cited by Corporation Counsel Janis M. Small — “includes the creation of a ‘vibrant, pedestrian-friendly commercial destination.’”
Call it adaptive re-use: taking old but perfectly sound buildings and turning them over to new uses that can contribute to rebuilding some of the hustle and bustle that used to characterize our downtown districts.
All across America, and certainly in Connecticut, towns and cities have been struggling to find ways to reanimate downtowns. Over the years, much retail trade has moved to shopping centers or big-box stores, where parking is ample and free. And as cars replaced buses as the favored mode of transportation, no longer was it necessary to go downtown in order to trade, bank, go to the barber shop or the hair salon, or visit the post office.
And, in recent times, in-person banking has been taking a back seat to online transactions, reducing the need for bricks-and-mortar banking locations. We saw this, for example, in the recent closing of Meriden’s last downtown bank, Wells Fargo.
All told, then, we see the decision of the Wallingford PZC as a good one, one that will complement nearby businesses — and may well bring back some of the liveliness that downtown needs.