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Updated: March 23, 2020 Town Profile: Cheshire

Cheshire’s grand list growth rate doubles as new projects, incentives spur growth

Photo | Contributed Hartford HealthCare recently opened this 50,000-square-foot medical office in Cheshire.

Many municipalities brag they’ve seen positive economic development activity in recent years but not all of them have real data to back it up.

Cheshire does. The town recently reported that its annual grand list as of Oct. 1, 2019, grew 1.52%, which was double the growth rate from a year earlier.

While that may not seem like a big gain it is in Connecticut.

In fact, the average municipal grand list growth rate in Connecticut during the 2016-17 fiscal year was 0.8%, while the median growth rate was 0.66%, according to the latest statewide data available from AdvanceCT and the CT Data Collaborative.

Cheshire Town Manager Sean Kimball said his town usually averages 0.7% annual grand list growth but a spate of new economic development projects helped boost real estate values.

“We had a very good year,” he said.

[Town Profile: HBJ examines developments in CT towns, cities]

Town Economic Development Coordinator Jerry Sitko said Cheshire has seen growth from a diversity of projects ranging from medical office buildings and retirement communities to new warehouses and restaurant expansions.

A reasonable mill rate of 33.22 combined with a wealthy population and a well-honed and recently expanded business incentive strategy have helped attract new business development, he said.

“We are seeing a really healthy mix of activity, which is good,” Sitko said.

Here’s a look at several recent projects in town:

• In September, Hartford HealthCare debuted a new 50,000- square-foot, two-floor medical office at 280 South Main St., site of the former Cheshire Cinema. The project had a $15-million price tag and the facility is being used to treat individuals with Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders, head pain, and provide physical rehabilitation, as well as primary care, cardiology, dermatology and clinical space for more than 20 specialties.

• Avon-based Constitution Surgery Alliance has plans to build a 75,000-square-foot surgical center and medical office complex in an industrial park on West Johnson Avenue. Hartford HealthCare will also have a presence in that facility, Sitko said.

• The Marbridge Retirement Center is undergoing a 46,350-square-foot expansion.

• Climate Engineering Cos. has been approved to build a 30,720-square-foot maintenance and warehouse facility.

• Counterweight Brewing recently announced it will move from Hamden to Cheshire, giving the town its first brewery.

• Viron Rondo Osteria, a popular Italian restaurant in town, completed a 4,500-square-foot expansion.

• The former Ball and Socket Arts industrial property off West Main Street is being remediated and renovated into a multi-purpose arts and commercial venue.

Untapped opportunity

Sitko said the town has taken several measures over the years to position itself for growth.

It has had a property tax-break program since 1994 and provides assistance for some off-site infrastructure improvements.

More recently, in 2019, the town created a tax incremental financing (TIF) district in its north end to spur development on 329 acres where I-691 intersects with Route 10.

Sitko said that site is one of the last remaining undeveloped interchanges in Connecticut.

As part of the TIF structure, revenue from future development within the district can be used to support off- and on-site improvements.

“Over decades that’s been the primary focus for Cheshire in terms of our best chance at significant development,” he said of the TIF district. “It’s on the outskirts of town so it doesn’t have as much of an impact on traffic.”

The TIF district includes public and private land zoned for commercial and residential use and there have been development proposals there before, including a mall and luxury shopping center, but they never came to fruition.

Westport’s Charter Realty & Development is currently leasing part of the land — 107 acres — owned by Cheshire-based Tri-Star Development LLC, which has options for mixed-use development that could include hotel, residential, restaurant or retail uses.

“We’ve had an all-the-above strategy with respect to economic development,” said Kimball, the town manager.

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