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March 4, 2021

Windsor Locks working with developer to restore historic train station

Rendering | Department of Transportation A rendering of the planned Windsor Locks train station.

The town of Windsor Locks has struck a deal with a national developer for the restoration of the historic train station on South Main Street, First Selectman J. Christopher Kervick said.

Although Kervick would not name the developer, he said the plan is for the town to lease the property on a long-term basis to the developer with the goal of transforming the building into a welcome center that features town history, a coffee shop, bistro, and a small-batch brewery.

The former train station has been out of service since the late 1970s. It is adjacent to the proposed new train station, which would be a stop on the Hartford Line connecting to Springfield and New Haven.

The town received $128,205 for renovations to the historic train station as part of the state’s Small Town Economic Assistance Program.

Kervick explained that with the grant, the town should be able to finish or get close to finishing work on the exterior doors, windows, and trim. The developer would restore the interior, Kervick said. Estimates from the town’s consulting architect put the price tag for that work at about $500,000.

“As a municipal owner, the town is not eligible for state and federal historic preservation tax credits as tax credits have no value to a tax-exempt entity. They have a great deal of value to a private developer. But we don’t want to sell the station. The answer — a long-term lease is sufficient to qualify the developer for the credits,” Kervick said.

The developer will complete the interior restoration using its own funds and historic tax credits, Kervick said, adding that the developer is interested in several other downtown parcels as well.

“Since historic tax credits are involved, the restoration would have to comply with standards that assure historic treatment. The lease will require the developer to maintain certain municipal facilities such as a welcome counter, historic exhibits about Windsor Locks, the canal and the industries along the canal, free Wi-Fi, and public restrooms,” Kervick said.

“In addition to the public facilities, the developer is looking at for-profit uses including a coffee shop/bistro and a craft brewery, or a small batch branch of a brewery. Outdoor tables on both street side and rail side are expected. They also are hoping to offer bicycle rentals for the canal trail,” Kervick said.

Selectman Paul M. Harrington said he is on board with the renovation plans.

“Anytime someone wants to open a business in town, I am all for it,” Harrington said. “We seem to be in the preliminary stages of the project, so we’ll see where it goes.”

The town would receive a base rent to cover its modest costs of ownership and a percentage rent on the gross of the for-profit uses. The lease will contain certain performance expectations and milestones and would be terminable if they are not met, Kervick said.

“Our goal has never been to make a lot of money but to preserve and use this historic link to old Main Street and this arrangement will allow that to happen,” Kervick said.

Kervick said he will identify the developer when the lease is ready for execution.

“The developer is a national-level, well-funded developer with a track record of successfully undertaking projects such as this,” Kervick said.

Built in 1875, the station was full of activity for much of its life. In 1975, Ella Grasso, the state’s first woman governor in her own right, boarded a train at the station bound for Hartford and her historic inauguration.

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