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West Hartford Business Buzz: June 17, 2019

Rendering of West Hartford Fellowship Housing. Courtesy of Town of West Hartford

A round-up of openings, closings, and other news about West Hartford businesses.

By Ronni Newton

Roses in bloom at Elizabeth Park, June 15, 2019. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

I hope all of the dads out there had a very happy Father’s Day, and that the dreary weather didn’t put too much of a damper on activities.

Although Sunday wasn’t very nice outside, Saturday was spectacular! It was a great day for my annual “run to the roses” in Elizabeth Park,  which I did this year with six of my running partners. We turned off our GPS watches when we got to the rose garden, and spent at least 15 minutes admiring the beautiful blooms and taking some photos.

We ran to the roses!

After hosting some relatives for lunch on Saturday, Ted and I attended the Playhouse on Park’s 10th anniversary gala. The event, held in the Gershon Fox Ballroom in Hartford, was incredibly successful as a fundraiser, and attendees also were treated to a performance of many of the musical numbers from the past 10 years of shows – performed by the original actors who returned for the celebration. Story to come this week!

I participated in two “celebrity” events this week – prompting some raised eyebrows from my son and a “What is this, celebrity week?” comment. It was great to serve (I think this is my ninth year) at the Celebrity Breakfast fundraiser for the Park Road Parade on Tuesday morning, and to scoop ice cream for the Friends of Feeney fundraiser at Rita’s on Wednesday evening.

Thursday was high school graduation, and thanks to the assistance from the team of fabulous We-Ha.com interns, we have stories about both Conard and Hall graduation ceremonies, and Conard and Hall Safe Grad events.

School’s out for summer, and I am hoping that the craziness of the past several weeks, with multiple activities taking place on the same night, will now subside.

Business news rarely slows down in West Hartford, but I do hope that everyone can move on to the business of relaxing and enjoying summertime, too!

If you have tips about businesses opening or closing, or doing something worth sharing, please provide that information in the comments or email Ronni Newton at [email protected].

Here’s this week’s Buzz:

Rendering of West Hartford Fellowship Housing. Town of West Hartford document

  • The Town Council is about to consider a project which will make a significant impact on a Bishops Corner property and address a critical residential need in town, where 18 percent of residents are over age 65. West Hartford Fellowship Housing – owner of the nonprofit development of affordable senior and accessible apartments – has applied to the Council to amend its Special Development District at 10-60 Starkel Rd. to demolish all but one of the the existing buildings (60 Starkel Rd. will remain but undergo renovation) and construct six new residential buildings as well as a new maintenance building. “It’s an older facilities that is in need of updates,” Town Planner Todd Dumais said, and there is also a demand for affordable senior housing in town. “For 50 years, with the support of the town and the community, West Hartford Fellowship Housing has been a quiet, steadfast haven for affordable elderly housing. We are beyond excited to be offering a vision of affordable elderly housing for the next 50 years, providing a village setting in the heart of Bishop’s Corner. We look forward to discussing this vision with the town and the Council as we work to make that vision a reality,” said Clare Kindall, vice president of West Hartford Fellowship Housing and the president of the Board for WHFH Development Corp., which is responsible for the redevelopment of the property. Under the proposal, the number of units will increase from 213 to 308, and there will also be updates to the parking, site lighting, landscaping, pedestrian access, and residential facilities. According to the application, the proposal also includes 287 parking spaces, and residential amenities including “a large community room, clinic space, beauty salon, fitness areas inside and out, bike storage, bocce court, walking paths and sheltered grand lawn as a community gathering area, framed by flowerbeds, walkways, patios, and gazebo.” All buildings, which will be connected on the ground floor, will be constructed on the existing parcel of land, which is 9.04 acres, and according to documents provided with the application, the overall construction work is estimated to take three to five years. If approved, construction could begin as early as next spring. Dumais said Friday that the application, which the Town Council last week set for a public hearing at 5:40 p.m. on July 16, is currently undergoing staff review and should be submitted to the Design Review and Advisory Committee (DRAC) in the next week or two. As for the existing residents, “They are going to try to make sure the staging and sequencing allows for minimal disruption,” Dumais said, with residents housed in vacant units during the construction. West Hartford Fellowship Housing’s mission is to provide affordable senior and mobility-impaired housing, and the application indicates continuation of that mission. “There is no indication at this point that rents will be increased to current residents due to new construction. If the rents are adjusted, it would be as part of the normal management process,” the application documents state. For more information, see the flier below.
  • An exciting project that has been discussed for the past several years looks to be (finally!) getting on track. The Town Council will have a public hearing June 25 (7:15 p.m.) and then has scheduled a vote at its meeting on some amendments to the Food Truck Ordinance passed in March 2017, which should pave the way for the opening of Gastro Park! Town Planner Todd Dumais said that two changes will be considered: permitting beer and wine as an accessory use – which he said is “economically important” to Gastro Park – and eliminating the requirement that there be two parking spaces for each food truck in addition to the other parking requirements for the food truck park. If those amendments are approved, the Town Plan and Zoning Commission (TPZ) could review the site plan for the 637 New Park Ave. food truck park and schedule a hearing for August. Gastro Park LLC purchased the property in August 2017, and a retaining wall is currently under construction. I’ve been following these plans for about three years, even before the Food Truck Ordinance was approved, and will definitely continue to provide updates about this family-friendly food truck park that should be a definitely attraction and spur economic development in the area. Click here for some background information

    James Kostelis at work at Fifth State Barber Company. Courtesy photo

  • Congratulations to James Kostelis, who is realizing his dream with the opening of Fifth State Barber Company on the first floor of 970 Farmington Ave. (Central Building). Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Appointments can be booked at www.fifthstatebarber.com. “I look forward to being your barber,” Kostelis said.
  • The storefront on the very northern tip of the Stop & Shop plaza on Newington Road in Elmwood has been vacant for years, ever since Yogurt City closed its doors not long after opening in 2013. Economic Development Specialist Kristen Gorski has confirmed that Code Ninjas, a franchise business that teaches kids the very valuable skill of coding through a “game-based curriculum that teaches teamwork, logic, math, and problem solving,” has signed a lease for the space. “The best way for your kids to learn to code is by building games that they love,” states the Code Ninjas website. No word yet on when they will be opening. To learn more about Code Ninjas, visit their website.

    FLOW’s former president Kristen Gorski (left) and newly-elected President Aaron Bohigian (right) present a check to Foundation for WHPS Co-President David Casarella. Courtesy photo

  • FLOW (Future Leaders of West Hartford), the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce’s young professionals group, recently presented a $1,000 check to the Foundation for West Hartford Public Schools in support of the Foundation’s teacher grant program. “We’re excited to be able to donate to the Foundation for a second year in a row! Last year our grant supported students at Bristow Middle School, who made blankets for Project Linus – a non-profit who donates the blankets to children in need. I look forward to seeing what this year’s grant will aid,” said Kristen Gorski, who completed her term as president earlier this month. “Thanks to generous donors like FLOW, the Foundation is able to provide the students of West Hartford Public Schools with unique educational experiences,” said Foundation Co-President David Casarella, who received the generous check. FLOW’s focus is the development and engagement of local young professionals in the business community.
  • The Hartford Business Journal reported last week that Dr. Brian Grosberg, director of the Hartford HealthCare Headache Center in West Hartford, was the principal investigator for a clinical study of a “non-invasive smart-phone enabled device” that provides migraine relief by delivering electric through an upper armband. Theranica, the Israeli company that developed the device, has won U.S. Food & Drug Administration recently approval for “Nerivio Migra.” Click here for more details about this innovative device that could be life-changing for many.
  • Today’s sad news is that the Hanna Andersson store at Westfarms, which opened in November 2015, has closed.
  • ICYMI, there was plenty of exciting business news this past week, including the announcement of Target’s grand opening date for its small-format Bishops Corner store on Aug. 18. Day two of the hiring fair is today. Click here for the complete story.
  • There looked to be some issues with the development of the Ideanomics global technology center, Fintech Village, on the former UConn campus in West Hartford, but after a meeting with Gov. Ned Lamont, Mayor Shari Cantor, and State Sen. Derek Slap, the company’s CEO said Thursday that he believes an “equitable solution” has been reached so that the project can move forward. Read the full story here.

Remember, if you have any business news to share, add it in the comments section below or email Ronni Newton at [email protected].

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