August is going to be an exciting month for the new Storrs Center. Much of the second phase of the mixed-use development is set, while those that moved in last year are celebrating their first anniversary.
Phase two of Storrs Center, located feet from the University of Connecticut campus, will be home to a branch of the UConn Co-op Bookstore, Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, a branch of the UConn Health Center, Haru Aki Café, Webster Bank, One Tribe clothing store and additional apartments at Oaks on the Square.
The newest construction at 1 Royce Circle is set for completion in August 2013, and the new tenants will join the 18 commercial businesses – including restaurants, a barber shop, an automotive repair shop, and a florist – and The Oaks on the Square apartments.
More apartments are coming to the area as well, and new residents are able to move in mid-August.
UConn senior Samantha Cummins is moving into the new apartments on August 13. “I decided to move into the Oaks for the unbeatable location,” Cummins said. “After seeing the first building, I thought it would be worth it for me and one of my best friends to have a clean apartment for senior year.”
The Co-op is hoping to open in September, but it may be pushed back to October. President and COO Bill Simpson said the Storrs Center location should better serve the community, since some people are reluctant to come onto campus.
"What we're hoping to get is additional business," said Simpson. "We hope to attract a mixture of town residents, visitors to sporting events, as well as students, faculty, and staff."
The Museum of Puppetry is planning on opening sometime in the Fall semester. Museum director John Bell said they decided to make the move from Depot Campus because it is 2 miles away from the main campus and not easily accessible for the public. Once in the new location, the museum will be open more than double their current hours as well as increase the number of exhibitions, said Bell.
Haru Aki Café is projected to open in the Fall, hopefully in October, according to co-owner Ronald Liu. Liu said that he and the two other co-founders, Jessica Chiep and Thomas Wang, are UConn alumni, so they thought the blend of campus culture and local community made Storrs Center the perfect place for their restaurant.
Webster Bank is expected to open in August. There is currently a Webster Bank a walk-up ATM at Gampel Pavillion, but this will be the first full service branch within 20 miles of campus. Brenda Greene, Vice President of Public Affairs at Webster Bank said they decided to open a branch in Storrs Center because Webster Bank has a new agreement to provide banking to the UConn Alumni Association and UConn Athletics. This allows them to be right across from campus.
The UConn Health Center branch plans to open in December.
Howard Kaufman, managing partner for Leyland Alliance LLC, the master developer of Storrs Center, said that One Tribe, a boutique with men’s, women’s, and chilren's clothing and accessories, just signed a lease for 1 Royce Circle. “We are speaking to a couple of other retailers,” he said. One Tribe owner Sandra J. Calvo-Rouette said she is planning on opening the last week in August.
Storrs Center was created by the Mansfield Downtown Partnership, comprised of the Town of Mansfield, University of Connecticut, and individual members. Leyland Alliance joined in the early stages of the project.
Last month, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced that the Town of Mansfield is one of 14 communities to receive a Main Street Investment Fund grant, according to a press release from Mansfield Downtown Partnership. The Town of Mansfield received $500,000 for improving the public spaces in Storrs Center.
According to the statement, the funding will be used for decorative street lights, trees and sidewalk planters, decorative concrete, signage, and façade improvements on the Dog Lane buildings.
Kaufman said the development is trying to achieve “new urbanism”, a mixed-use area where people can shop, live, and work in a pedestrian-oriented environment.
Kaufman compared new urbanism to life before World War II. After the war, many suburban areas had separate places to live, shop, and work. “It’s not really pedestrian friendly,” Kaufman said.
The New Urbanism Movement began about 30 years ago, aiming to create more mixed-use areas. Kaufman said, “Main street had shops, homes, and places to work,” all in walking distance.
Kaufman said that people living in the apartments have about half the number of cars than the zoning code expected. “We’re seeing one car for ever two apartments,” he said. About half the people living in Oaks on the Square apartments are choosing not to have a car, so it seems the Mansfield Downtown partnership is achieving the pedestrian-oriented area they envisioned. Parking for Oaks residents is an additional $60 per month.
Future plans for the development include a Price Chopper supermarket, CVS, and town houses and condominiums for purchase, according to Kaufman.
Several restaurants and shops that opened with the earlier phase of Storrs Center are celebrating their first year of business in the Storrs community, while others relocated from nearby locations.
The Marketplace building, Storrs Automotive building, Select Physical Therapy building, the stores at 10 Dog Lane, and 3 former university buildings were demolished in order to make space for Storrs Center. Kaufman said every business that was located in one of those buildings was given an opportunity to move into the new Storrs Center.
Dog Lane Café and Geno’s Grille were created specifically for Storrs Center. Brittany Kaytis, manager at Geno’s Grille, said that the restaurant targets the Storrs community and visiting parents of UConn students. She said that a downtown area was long overdue for the University.
The Flower Pot, a local florist now at 9 Dog Lane, has been getting more business due to the residential apartments and foot traffic, according to employee Chelsea Shea.
Holly Upton, owner of Head Husky Barber Shop, has been working in Storrs for 29 years. She said Storrs Center is a very friendly area. “I see a lot of happy people," Upton said.
Select Physical Therapy has been located in Storrs for 10 years, and Center Manager Scott Cross is happy about the move. “We love the location are excited for Phase 2 to open,” Cross said.
Some businesses are concerned about the price of the new location. Matt Waitkus of Body Language and Irene Schein, owner of Storrs Automotive, both said that the rent in Storrs Center is double what they were paying prior to the move. Schein said that Storrs Automotive may have to modify prices and increase hours in the fall.
“In the next year or so, the whole town area will be complete,” Kaufman said. “It won’t have any negatives of the construction. Give it another year, and start seeing the full benefits of the project. “