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June 12, 2023 / 2023 Power 25 Real Estate

2023 Power 25 Real Estate: Eileen Buckheit

Eileen Buckheit

Development interest in East Hartford has hit a crescendo, just as Eileen Buckheit has reached the 10th anniversary of her appointment as the town’s development director.

Working hand-in-glove with Mayor Michael Walsh, Buckheit has helped negotiate with developers and shepherd ambitious, complex proposals through the town’s land use approval processes.

“She just has a breadth of experience, everything we have done we couldn’t have done without Eileen,” Walsh said.

There has been no small workload lately.

Early this year, National Development broke ground on two buildings at Rentschler Field that will add 2.5 million square feet of logistics space. The Massachusetts-based company has signed home improvement giant Lowe’s and home-goods retailer Wayfair as tenants.

Buckheit and her colleagues are also working to clear the way for developers Avner Krohn and Brian Zelman to build 300-plus apartments on a 25-acre site that once housed a Showcase Cinemas building. The property is located off Silver Lane, not far from the 22-acre Silver Lane Plaza, a decaying retail expanse recently claimed by the town.

East Hartford officials hope to see the run-down and mostly vacant plaza replaced with something that will make better use of a big land parcel located in a key spot along one of the town’s busiest arteries.

The town has seen some progress in its long-held ambition to foster redevelopment of the roughly 50-year-old Founders Plaza office park, located along the Connecticut River. Officials have been working with developers interested in building a mix of multifamily housing, retail and office space on the plaza’s roughly 40 acres.

Prior to joining East Hartford in March 2013, Buckheit spent five years as commissioner of planning and development in West Haven. She has also worked for the Regional Growth Partnership in New Haven and the city of Bridgeport.

Buckheit grew up in East Hartford, something she said helps her connect with residents and town staff, which makes it easier to gather input and rally support.

“I definitely listen to a lot of advice from different people,” Buckheit said. “I also think I have good relations with the town council, and they’ve learned to trust me. I think because I’m from here, and I have family that lives here, I have an emotional connection in wanting this town to succeed, and that’s where a lot of it comes from.”

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