October 22, 2018
Economic Development

Rail station, hotel, housing fill Newington’s bucket list

HBJ Photo | Gregory Seay
HBJ Photo | Gregory Seay
Newington’s former National Welding site at the corner of Cedar Street and Fenn Road is open to redevelopment.
Gregory Seay

Newington, whose Berlin Turnpike corridor is popular with shoppers and diners, is the scene of several proposed development projects that could one day raise its destination profile even more.

Aside from the recent $3.2 million sale of the Sears Outlet store, a developer and Eversource are pending with a sale of the utility operator's 24-acre hilltop former service-center site at 3333 Berlin Turnpike. According to Andrew Brecher, Newington's economic-development director, the developer's initial vision is for housing.

At 550 Cedar St., Massachusetts developer-landlord Dakota Partners, which owns Hartford's Capitol Lofts and 179 Allyn St. apartment buildings, is proposing an affordable-housing development near one of Newington's two CTfastrak busway stations.

Next spring, work is slated to begin on developer Michael Frisbee and his partners' $60 million Villas at Cedar Mountain assisted- and independent-living community.

But just a short walk up Cedar Street from the Dakota project would rest the largest and potentially biggest economic-development spur for Newington: the state Department of Transportation's (DOT) proposal for a new, $55 million train station at 565 Cedar St., across from Central Connecticut State University.

Included in the $55 million, Brecher said, would be funding for DOT upgrades to Route 9 and arteries to and from the train-station site.

The rail-station site would be an alternative to the DOT's original plan for one at Francis and Willard avenues, in the town's Newington Junction neighborhood, named for a time when a train station once sat there, Brecher said.

However, junction neighbors' concerns about traffic and noise from a nearby rail station prompted DOT to rethink its scheme, Brecher said.

As a result, the town and DOT scheduled an Oct. 18 "informational meeting'' for residents and town leaders to hear more about the proposed rail station. Also contemplated is related parking, to accommodate Hartford Line and CTfastrak riders.

Meantime, still under discussion, Brecher said, is a new hotel in town adjacent to the CCSU campus. An Albany, N.Y., developer is proposing a 120-room hotel, with 65-seat restaurant and 5,000 square feet of conference space. The unnamed developer recently completed a second market study that showed significant market demand for a lodging facility with that size and amenities, he said.

But for the state's fiscal woes, which held up DOT's rail-station planning, the hotel might have been built already, or at least begun construction, Brecher said.

Meantime, Town Planner Craig Minor, Brecher says, is working on a "transit village design district'' overlay of the town's existing zoning layout, to help residents and officials choose the most ideal long-term development options.

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