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September 16, 2020

Work gets underway at $18M Berlin mixed-use project

Rendering | QA+M Architecture A rendering of the mixed-use Steele Center project in Berlin.

Construction officially kicked off Wednesday on an $18-million mixed-use project that will bring market-rate apartments, restaurant, medical and retail space to the center of Berlin, mere steps from the town’s recently rebuilt train station.

The Steele Center project, located along Farmington Avenue, is led by longtime local developers Anthony Valenti and Mark Lovley of Newport Realty Group. Newport recently closed on its purchase of several parcels of town-owned land.

It is the second mixed-use project currently under construction in town, following the recent start of the next phase of construction at Turnpike Ridge, a roughly $15 million development located on the Berlin Turnpike.

The Steele Center, which has been bolstered by several million dollars worth of state funding for roadway improvements, environmental cleanup and land acquisition, received a special permit from the town last September.

Closing on the property sale was delayed by a legal challenge of the town’s approval by an abbutting landowner that argued that it would suffer environmental and other impacts from the project. The parties settled the dispute in June.

Gov. Ned Lamont attended a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday morning at the site, where state and local dignitaries addressed a crowd in front of a mountain of dirt.

“This is about growth and opportunity going forward,” said Lamont, who cut his remarks short due to an interruption from several people protesting his executive orders related to containing COVID-19.

Lamont told the protestors, who booed when he took the podium, that he would be happy to talk to them afterwards, but as Lamont tried to continue his remarks, they continued to call out that he should “reopen Connecticut.”

“If you think being incredibly rude is helping your cause I think you’re wrong,” Lamont said.

He closed by noting that “tens of thousands of people have changed address to Connecticut over the last three to four months,” presumably a reference to an influx of New York residents purchasing real estate here. “It’s a vote of confidence in Connecticut, and I hope this train allows them to come right to Berlin.”

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