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Updated: October 25, 2022

New development district sparks Berlin Turnpike mixed-use growth

PHOTO | COSTAR Berlin is seeing a spurt of new mixed-use residential development along its stretch of the 12.17-mile Berlin Turnpike, which also crosses into other towns including Newington and Wethersfield.

The creation of a special development overlay district in 2019 has spurred a recent boom in mixed-use projects along the busy Berlin Turnpike.

Since its inception more than three years ago, the Berlin Turnpike Development Zone has allowed building plans that combine residential with retail and commercial projects.

Historically, residential units were not permitted along the turnpike except in a very small section, Economic Development Director Chris Edge said.

Chris Edge

The new designation allows the Planning and Zoning Commission to modify some of the use and dimensional standards in the underlying zoning districts along the turnpike.

The purpose is to promote mixed-use development, including housing opportunities, in close proximity to the Berlin Turnpike’s existing commercial properties.

Projects in the new development zone carry the unique blueprint of commercial buildings out front, along the busy thoroughfare, with apartment properties located in the back.

The formula “preserves the commercial frontage on the Berlin Turnpike,” but gives the opportunity for residential units to bring new people to Berlin, Edge said.

Projects proposed in the zone still need land-use approval, but several underway are already changing the landscape along Route 15.

The foundation for 72 residential units at Turnpike Ridge, at 196 Berlin Turnpike, was just poured.

Nearby is a busy commercial center with two remaining retail spaces available for rent, alongside a Fresh Monkey smoothie bar, Berkshire Hathaway real estate agency, Sherwin Williams paint store, and Lou & Mo’s Sandwich Shoppe.

At 404 Berlin Turnpike, Peter D’Addeo of Rocky Hill-based Commercial Services Realty is behind plans to build 200 residential units, 40 of them affordable, along with a commercial site for a fueling station, retail and a hotel.

RENDERING | CONTRIBUTED
Deming Ridge is an 88-unit apartment complex being proposed on the Berlin Turnpike-adjacent Deming Road, in Berlin.

Deming Ridge, on Berlin Turnpike-adjacent Deming Road, is a project by 833 Deming Road LLC and Farmington-based Metro Realty to build 88 residential units, some affordable, over multiple buildings.

Work on the second building in this development is underway, and developers anticipate occupancy in the spring.

The Deming Road Business Park is a four-building, 20,000-square-foot specialized industrial space for lease, with tenant Full Circle Golf on board. The development has space for at least five new companies, with two more buildings to be built, and is strictly commercial.

A developer has an application before the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission for 100 residential units in three buildings behind ABC Supply’s commercial property at 554 Berlin Turnpike.

Edge said the town supports development and housing options for families, new workers, professionals and empty nesters, with a focus on a percentage of units deemed affordable.

The special turnpike development designation also provides for “a variety and diversity of housing opportunities … to meet residential demands… by providing opportunities for current Berlin residents to age in place and provide housing opportunities in Berlin for its growing industrial and commercial sector labor forces.”

“Apartments are where careers go to sleep, and that is what Berlin is full of — careers,” Edge said of the professional working population in town.

Residential drives commercial

In creating the new development zone, Edge said town leaders looked at demographics and realized there had not been new housing in a number of years.

Young workers who move to Berlin in a smaller apartment may look at the town’s single-family housing stock a few years down the road, Edge said.

When the turnpike became attractive to developers, Edge said the town didn’t want to give up prime retail sites just to apartments, so the formula for retail out front and residential behind was ideal.

The turnpike’s retail growth, which is more visible, is thanks to apartments located nearby, Edge said, since residential drives economic development.

“Residents want access to businesses and businesses want to be near apartments,” Edge said. “The mix really works.”

“Deming Road and the Berlin Turnpike are where things are happening right now,” Edge added, but progress “is inclusive in all areas.”

“We’re starting to see more growth, not just along the turnpike, but around town,” especially on Farmington Avenue near the new train station where breweries, a gastropub and several mixed-use and commercial centers have sprouted.

“And hopefully we will continue to see growth,” Edge said.

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