April 6, 2018

Produce distributors propose development in Hartford's South Meadows

Contributed photo
Contributed photo
MIRA's trash-to-energy plant on the Connecticut River in Hartford's South Meadows.

A Hartford and national produce distributor have each submitted proposals to develop and bring new jobs to 20 acres of a desolate industrial area in Hartford's South Meadows, according to the Capital Region Development Authority.

Hartford-based Sardilli Produce & Dairy Co., headquartered at 212 Locust St., and Freshpoint, a division of Houston-based food distributor Sysco Corp., with a distribution center at 105 Reserve Road, have proposed to lease the land and build a distribution center spanning more than 100,000 square feet, CRDA said.

The proposals call for creating between 80 to 125 jobs, said CRDA Executive Director Michael W. Freimuth.

CRDA is managing the development proposals on the land owned by the operator of the nearby power plant, the quasi-public Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority (MIRA). Freimuth said MIRA must sign off on leasing the land, adding that he plans to recommend a proposal to the agency later this month.

With MIRA's approval, the agency would lease the land to CRDA, which would then sublease the 20 acres to a distributor. The development may garner revenues from lease payments, property taxes on equipment and permit fees on the property.

Freimuth said his recommendation will be driven by many factors, including a distributor's potential to profit, ability to provide job growth and investments at the site. Environmental issues in the area must also be considered as the land is repurposed, he said.

Freimuth said MIRA's decision to lease the land may depend on Hartford's willingness to reduce the agency's host fee, which is paid to the city because in lieu of property taxes. He said the agency also pays host fees for the presumed environmental effects of having a trash and energy plant in Hartford.

But Thomas D. Kirk, MIRA's president, on Friday denied that the agency is seeking a reduced host fee in exchange for signing off on a lease. After all, Kirk said the agency's seven-member board of directors has not yet discussed or considered the recent proposals.

The benefits of the city expanding the site, Kirk said, are likely more about job creation and development then they are about the lease payment.

"The board is cognizant of the financial issues the city has and acknowledges our position as a public land facility not paying any taxes," he said. "I think the board reasonably expects the city respects it's trying to be a good neighbor and valuable addition to the Hartford region."

Kirk suggested the board will discuss a proposal once a recommendation is made by CRDA.

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