Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

June 10, 2024

With major projects in the queue, Enfield could finally find its economic development ‘stride’

CONTRIBUTED This rendering shows the proposed redevelopment of the Enfield mall site, which would include retail, recreation and multifamily housing.

With several large-scale development proposals in the works, the town of Enfield could be in store for an economic resurgence that leads to grand-list growth and spurs additional activity.

Four major projects would bring a combination of housing, recreation and mass transit to the town of about 42,000 residents, while repurposing properties whose uses are becoming obsolete.

The proposed $250 million Enfield Square Mall redevelopment is the largest planned project with the greatest potential economic impact, said Donald Poland, senior vice president of urban planning at East Hartford commercial real estate advisory firm Goman+York.

Donald Poland

Poland helped draft Enfield’s plan of conservation and development and is currently working to update town zoning regulations.

Nebraska-based Woodsonia Real Estate Group Inc. recently announced plans to buy the 570,000-square-foot mall, which is 85% vacant, and turn it into a mixed-use development with retail, housing and recreation.

The purchase agreement, the details of which were not disclosed, is contingent on approvals from the current mall owner, New York-based Namdar Realty Group.

The proposed “Enfield Marketplace” project would create 450 residential units, two hotels, and retail and restaurant space.

Also moving through the land-use process is a plan to turn the former MassMutual office campus into a large-scale recreational facility with fields, hotels and restaurants. Efforts are also underway to build a new Hartford Line train station in town, and convert a religious campus into senior housing.

“Malls, large corporate parks, religious facilities, they’re all obsolete, and they have to find a way to repurpose,” Poland said.

Enfield has suffered some economic setbacks in recent years, including from corporate relocations. MassMutual left its sprawling Enfield campus to consolidate its local operations in Springfield, Mass.

Toymaker Lego Group by the end of 2026 is relocating its North American headquarters and 740 employees to Boston from Enfield, where it had been located for a half-century.

Efforts to redevelop large and obsolete real estate parcels have been slow-moving, while the town is also facing budgetary pressures that recently led to education-related cuts, including the elimination of nearly 130 school system positions.

Despite that, Enfield’s grand list, or the value of its taxable property, has gradually increased over the past decade to $3.7 billion in 2022, up 30.4% from 2013.

And with several major projects on tap, the town could be “finding its stride,” Poland said.

A mix of new uses

Fast Track Realty LLC has submitted plans for a multibuilding sports complex, called All Sports Village, at 85 and 100 Bright Meadow Blvd. It would have indoor and outdoor fields and courts, a hotel, family entertainment center and restaurants and bars on nearly 70 acres.

If approved, the development will be located at the vacant MassMutual office complex site, which has 430,000 square feet of mostly office space that will be partially torn down; some fields will be built over existing parking lots.

Andy Borgia, of Fast Track Realty, said it’s a complex project and his team is continuing to work through land-use approvals. It has won inland wetlands approval and is now moving to the planning and zoning process.

Once completed, the development will create hundreds of jobs and generate economic growth for the area through taxes and potential new developments around the sports complex, Borgia said.

Developers are looking to turn the former MassMutual campus in Enfield into an All Sports Village recreational center.

Aaron Marcavitch, Enfield’s director of economic and community development, said a main draw for the project will be the hotel and restaurants, which will have “a ton of impact on visitors as well as job creation and attracting new residents.”

Aaron Marcavitch

He said there is a big focus in the state on tourism through sports and attractions.

“The town is favorable to anything that’s going to bring in a really great project, to keep us on the map and show some great progress,” Marcavitch said.

Enfield train station

Enfield also has a new train station project on tap, with construction targeted to begin in the spring of 2025. The state Department of Transportation-led project is in the design phase with a targeted completion date of 2027.

The $45 million train station, funded through state bonding and federal grants, will be the newest stop on the CTrail Hartford Line, connecting riders from Amtrak and Metro-North lines.

Other towns with new train stations — like New Britain and Berlin — have seen tens of millions of dollars in adjacent public or private development projects, from new roads, sidewalks and infrastructure to mixed-use housing and retail complexes.

Enfield is hoping to attract similar transit-oriented development, with the goal of creating a more vibrant, “live, work, play” feel in town, officials said.

More than $3 million in funding will support public streetscape and utility improvements around the Enfield station, including upgrades to sidewalks, roadways, lighting and parking, Marcavitch said.

Additionally, he said the nearby Connecticut River is a massively underused resource in Enfield, and he’s hoping the planned development projects can spur revitalization along the waterfront.

“We’ll try to unlock dollars, to get out there and rally for these projects,” he said. “Many parcels are owned by the town, or involve the town, so leadership is really hoping these will move the needle.”

Paving the way for housing

A senior housing project conceptualized two years ago would redevelop the Felician Sisters’ Our Lady of the Angels Convent campus, which sits on nearly 30 acres at 1297 Enfield St.

An initial zone change proposed by Boston-based The Community Builders, which would have allowed more than 300 housing units on-site, faced opposition from local residents concerned about the project’s scale and was rejected by the town.

However, this past April, the Enfield Planning and Zoning Commission made an amendment allowing for elderly housing in the convent area via special permit approval.

A new redevelopment plan, which hasn’t officially been submitted to town land-use boards, will scale down the original concept by calling for 45 units reserved for lower-income residents ages 62 and older.

Proponents of the new plan said it would bring much-needed senior housing to Enfield and find a suitable reuse of the convent campus.

Right track

Poland, of Goman+York, said each project has its benefits, but one clearly has the greatest potential for economic impact and smart reuse.

“At the end of the day, the mall is the standout site,” he said. “It’s past its prime and underperforming, it’s in a highly visible area and will be an anchor to the community with its potential for housing and critical mass.”

Drew Snyder, president of Woodsonia, said traditional malls have “a broken business model” and are struggling to compete with large online retailers like Amazon.

Drew Snyder

Large malls are often centrally located and prime for mixed-use redevelopment, Snyder said.

However, the project, which is only in the design phase, is far from a sure bet. The redevelopment hinges on at least $20 million in state funding to help pay for construction. It will also require numerous government approvals.

The town has been eyeing a mixed-use redevelopment of the mall since at last 2018, Marcavitch said.

“So, the idea of housing, retail, walkability, maybe hotels, restaurants, having an improved mix, better circulation, better connection, is right on target,” he said.

The town supports Woodsonia’s redevelopment proposal, and will seek funding from the state Department of Economic and Community Development’s Community Investment Fund to help make the project a reality. The town has also approved a local property tax break, giving the mall site a $7.3 million tax assessment for 10 years along with a credit enhancement agreement.

“That’s the best and most viable option for that site,” Poland said of the redevelopment proposal. “Time and time again, with retail, whether it’s malls or strip plazas, big box retail, they are scaling back on the amount of retail; rightsizing is a common strategy.”

These four projects alone won’t completely transform Enfield, Poland said, but they will put the town on the right track, with a focus on multifamily development and creating a more vibrant, walkable community.

Sign up for Enews


Order a PDF