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August 19, 2020 Deal Watch Today

$18M Berlin transit-oriented development to begin after land deal

Rendering | QA+M Architecture A rendering of the mixed-use Steele Center project in Berlin.
HBJ Photo | Steve Laschever Mark Lovley (left) and Tony Valenti outside the Berlin train station, adjacent to their Steele Center mixed-use project.

The developers of an $18-million transit-oriented development (TOD) near the Berlin Train Station are breaking ground on the project this fall after recently acquiring two of the town-owned properties slated for apartment, medical office, restaurant and retail space.

Land records show developers Anthony Valenti and Mark Lovley, of Newport Realty Group LLC, completed their purchase of 861 and 903 Farmington Ave., on July 30 for $10,000 and $195,000, respectively. Newport is also close to buying adjacent town-owned land at 889 and 913 Farmington Ave., for the five-building complex, town records show. 

Chris Edge, the town's economic-development director, on Tuesday said the deal sets the partners up to begin redeveloping the former vacant commercial building at 861 Farmington Ave. in September. Other construction will commence this fall, as the entire development is expected to be completed in late 2022, Edge said.

Town officials selected Newport Realty to develop the town center in 2018, following a request for qualifications (RFQ) process.

The so-called “Steele Center @ Farmington Avenue” project is a prime example of a TOD, which state and local officials have been promoting in recent years to build off the 2018 launch of the CTrail commuter service on the Hartford Line that connects New Haven to Springfield.

Investments in new mixed-use developments around existing or proposed Hartford Line rail stations have grown in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

“The Steele Center project will bring new residents and businesses to Berlin and more 'feet on the street' to support our stores and restaurants on Farmington Avenue," Mayor Kaczynski said in a statement.

A map of the $18-million Steele Center development.

After three phases of construction, the complex will feature 76 market-rate apartments and medical office, restaurant and retail space, according to plans

The site known as “Parcel A” will include 12,000 square feet of medical office space, and "Parcel B" will have 21,000 square feet of ground-level retail and restaurant space and 16 one- and two-bedroom apartments split between the second and third floors.

The "Parcel C" property will become a 2,000-square-foot restaurant, and Parcels D and E will each be 3.5-story apartment buildings with 30 one- and two-bedroom units. About 200 parking spaces are also being installed.

Kaczynski also announced that the town recently signed a contract with Oxford's Guerrera Construction Co. to build a road called “Steele Boulevard” in an effort to connect the buildings to Farmington Avenue and the train station's parking lot. That project is being supported by grants from the state Department of Transportation, the Office of Policy and Management and the Department of Economic and Community Development, Edge said.

Meanwhile, the land deal adds to Newport Realty's footprint on Farmington Avenue.

In January, the development firm acquired the office-apartment Depot Crossing building at 848 Farmington Ave. for $1.25 million, according to the Record Journal. Valenti and Lovley a month later rebranded the commercial space as Newport Center @ Farmington Avenue. 

Developed by the nonprofit Corporation for Independent Living, the $3.3 million mixed-use project, with 16 apartments and ground-floor retail space, opened in 2015.

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