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February 8, 2016 Deal Watch

Working on Pride's I-91 Hartford Travel Center

HBJ photo | gregory seay Steelworkers erect the second of two pump-island canopies for Pride Convenience Inc.'s Hartford Travel Center, off Jennings and Leibert roads, in the North Meadows.

Limited construction is underway on the Hartford Travel Center refueling-rest stop that a Springfield convenience-store chain is erecting along I-91 northbound that now also will include a hydrogen-refueling depot.

Pride Convenience Inc. has installed the first of two pump-island canopies for Pride's first large Connecticut food and refueling rest stop for motorists and truckers, according to Pride founder Robert “Bob” Bolduc.

Pride initially confirmed its Connecticut expansion plans last August, after acquiring 6 ½ acres from the city at the northeast corner of Jennings Road, at the I-91 interchange in the city's North Meadows, for its travel center.

Bolduc said full construction, including installation of underground gasoline and diesel-fuel storage tanks, is slated to start sometime in March, with the travel center's grand opening still set for summer.

“Our goal is to be open around Fourth of July,'' Bolduc said.

The facility's basic lineup of amenities remains as previously planned: 16 fuel pumps and ample parking for passenger vehicles and tractor-trailers; a travel-center building equipped with showers and lockers for motorists; and a food court featuring Subway, a café-bakery and the “91 Grill,'' offering burgers and fries.

“Pride is big into food,'' Bolduc said.

But there is one major, new addition, he said — a hydrogen-refueling station. French industrial-gas supplier Air Liquide will erect and operate the hydrogen depot on the travel center's premises, Bolduc said. Air Liquide did not respond to requests for comment.

Pride has hired a Hartford general manager from Manchester with extensive food-service background. The travel center also still plans to employ 45-50 full- and part-time workers, most of them from Hartford to ensure staffing for the facility in inclement weather, Bolduc said.

He said Pride is meeting soon with city officials to leverage the city's jobs-employment programs and initiatives, to corral new hires.

Pride has 32 convenience stores in western Massachusetts and northern Connecticut.

Convention center 'refresh'

The Connecticut Convention Center is undergoing an interior-exterior “refresh'' after a decade of operations, to keep downtown Hartford's and the state's leading public exhibition-conference hall competitive.

The approximately $2.5 million in upgrades are being funded from the convention center's capital-reserve account as well as some state bonding, said convention center spokeswoman Annika Deming.

Not that the 540,000-square-foot structure with covered parking is falling apart.

“For a building that's 10 years old, it's in incredibly good condition. Our associates do an incredible job maintaining the building,'' Deming said.

However, the facelift and expansion are necessary, she said, to compete with other U.S. cities' public exhibition-meeting spaces that either are newer or more recently updated.

“We work in a very competitive industry, so when clients come through to site-visit three years in advance, they really expect the building to be in the same condition as when they came for their visit,'' Deming said.

Wallingford's R&B Ceramic Tile and Floor Covering Inc. laid new wall-to-wall carpeting throughout the facility, she said. Currently, all of the furniture in the convention center's public spaces also is being replaced.

New exterior awnings were installed by Bloomfield's Infinity Group LLC. Later this month, workers will begin assembling a permanent, indoor box-office to provide visitors with event tickets and information, Deming said. Located in the lower lobby at the south end of the convention center, completion of the box-office is set for late spring.

“It gives us an opportunity to better accommodate our public events,'' Deming said.

Global Design Americas, of Bethesda, Md., did the interior design.

The Capital Region Development Authority oversees the convention center, and has offices there.

Connecticut hospitality landlord-consultant The Waterford Hotel Group manages the convention center day-to-day.

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Gregory Seay is the Hartford Business Journal News Editor.

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