The West Hartford Town Council unanimously approved an application to amend the Special Development District for Prospect Plaza to permit a new building that will house a Chipotle and two other tenants.
By Ronni Newton
An application to amend the Special Development District to allow the owner to add an outbuilding at Prospect Plaza that will house a Chipotle and two other tenants was unanimously approved 9-0 by the West Hartford Town Council on Tuesday night.
The Chipotle will have a “Chipotlane” – which will comply with the town’s regulations for drive-throughs but is expected to have a much shorter queue because it is for mobile order pick-up only. No orders will be taken at the window, and no commerce will be conducted.
“With the assistance of this Council and their planning objectives we have made great progress in improving this plaza,” Kari Olson of Murtha Culling, the attorney representing Prospect Plaza owner DLC Management Corp., said at the public hearing held prior to the Council meeting. “The existing plaza is 95% occupied – that’s incredible,” she said.
The new 5,000 square foot outbuilding will be constructed in the southeast corner of the shopping center – at the corner of Prospect Avenue and Kane Street – amid what is currently a “sea of parking spaces.” It will improve the view of what Olson said is a “gateway to West Hartford,” and will include a 600 square foot patio for outdoor dining and other site upgrades.
The additional development on the site will replace 8,000 square feet of what is currently impervious surface – asphalt – with grass and other landscaping, noted Jeff Bord of Bohler Engineering. Runoff will now be cleaned before entering the storm sewer system, he said, which is a “drastic improvement from a drainage standpoint to what’s there today.”
Recent improvements made by DLC to Prospect Plaza have included the opening of Floor & Decor in the former ShopRite store in the northeast corner of the shopping center, and the opening of Planet Fitness in the vacant Hibachi space.
Mayor Shari Cantor, prior to the vote, said the Council is grateful for the investments which have led to 95% occupancy of the existing plaza, and noted that this is a “very exciting area” of town with the leasing of the 300 apartments at One Park right up the street also now getting underway.
In addition, “infill is really important for the storm water,” Cantor said, adding with a reduction of impervious area, something which is emphasized as one of the purposeful goals in the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development.
“The addition of this outparcel business is one that really enhances the plaza for the community, both aesthetically and functionally,” said Greg Oshins, VP of Redevelopment for DLC. He said the resulting application was improved through collaboration with the town’s Design Review Advisory Committee, which reviewed the plans through several study sessions and ultimately gave it unanimous support – as did the Town Plan & Zoning Commission.
The only speakers at the public hearing were Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Chris Conway, and Chuck Coursey, representing the Chamber’s Economic Development Committee – expressing strong support for the project and the continued improvement of this area of West Hartford.
Questions by Council members – including the two zoning alternates who filled in for absent councilors – were all addressed by the applicant.
Cantor asked for confirmation that safeguards would be taken to protect trash from rodents and other vermin, and Olson confirmed that the DLC had agreed to a pest analysis prior to construction and an ongoing maintenance plan. The screened dumpster area is completely enclosed, she said.
Council member Carol Blanks raised the issue of the sidewalk shown on the renderings that leads to Kane Street, expressing concern that with the new Starbuck’s directly across the street, pedestrians might be tempted to cross at that area, which is very dangerous as it does not have a crosswalk and is near the I-84 ramp and a busy intersection. Other Council members echoed her concerns, and as part of the conditions of approval DLC agreed to work with the town planner to explore relocating that sidewalk or adding a diagonal sidewalk “to make more pedestrian linkage” to Kane Street as well as Prospect Avenue.
Chipotle will occupy 2,400 square feet of the new outbuilding. The two remaining spaces are 1,500 and 1,100 square feet. Oshins said there is not currently specific information about the tenants that can be share, but said they will be “first class retail/restaurant uses.”
In 2021, the Town Council voted unanimously to revise an ordinance related to drive-through operations, permitting them in additional zones.
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