Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Target, Aldi grocery stores aiming for Vernon

By: Kym Soper
Journal Inquirer
May 18, 2007

VERNON - A Target store anchoring several smaller retailers and an Aldi grocery store just a city block away on Talcottville Road are two construction projects town officials are now considering.

On Thursday representatives of New Jersey developer Lucarelli Construction Co. went before the town Planning and Zoning Commission to unveil conceptual plans for a retail village they want to build on the section of Route 83 known as the former Lyman farm.

Target would anchor the group of stores with a 125,000 square-foot building, and be surrounded by smaller retail outlets that would likely include a 40,000-square-foot stand-alone building housing a sporting goods store, and a 24,000-square-foot strip of storefronts with a bank, one or two restaurants, and a coffee shop.

Economic Development Coordinator Marina Rodriguez said that if it is built the project could provide more than half a million dollars in new tax revenue.

The Lyman property is one of the last remaining undeveloped parcels in the 275-acre Gerber Farm area. Most of the surrounding parcels have been developed to include multi-family housing including the Quail Hollow age-restricted housing developments on Dart Hill Road, and some industrial development.

The group of retail shops would form a ring around a parking lot just east of the luxury apartments and townhouses known as the Mansions at Hockanum Crossing. Because of that proximity, the shopping plaza would lend itself to pedestrian traffic, Joseph P. Capossela, the lawyer representing the developer said.

Bordered to the east by Route 83 and to the west by the Hockanum River, the western third of the property is flood plain where developers plan to create stone dust walking paths that will tie into and extend the Hockanum River trail, Capossela said.

Plans are preliminary at this point, he said, and no tenants, including Target, have fully committed as yet. The project is about a year away from a formal application to the commission.

"We're just looking for affirmation that you'd be interested in our going ahead with this project," Capossela told commission members.

Benjamin J. Lucarelli, president of Lucarelli Construction Co. of Red Bank, N.J., had initially approached the town a few years back, suggesting a Lowe's home center be built on the 35-acre parcel. Town staff had a negative reaction to those plans, however, and they were scrapped.

He then approached Target and began to develop plans for the site, again consulting with town staff, Capossela said.

Initial reaction among commission members Thursday was positive.

Members are also looking favorably on plans for an Aldi food store to be located across the street and a city block away from the proposed Target development.

The 16,600 square-foot store would be tucked in on one of three parcels located between the bowling alley and floor-covering store on Route 83.

Aldi's would sit towards the rear of the empty 8.7-acre parcel, abutting the bowling alley property. It would share an entrance at the streetlight with the one time garden center now turned Flooring America Plaza.

Uses for the other two parcels are undecided at present, Gregory C. Weaver, lawyer for the applicant, Boston Manchester LLC, said.

An international grocery chain, Aldi is not a typical food store, said Weaver, noting that most supermarkets are 70,000-square-feet or more.

According to the food retailer's website, Aldi specializes in providing a limited assortment of private label, high-quality products at the lowest possible prices.

Aldi introduced the limited assortment concept to the United States in 1976 when the first stores were opened in southeastern Iowa. Today, Aldi Inc. operates over 800 stores in 27 states, primarily from Kansas and eastward to the coast.

There are now four Connecticut stores, one each located in Bristol, Wallingford, Waterbury, and Torrington, with plans to build another in East Hartford and a warehouse in South Windsor.

The presentation and public hearing for the project was continued to June 7.

Also Thursday, commission members denied a request by CVS to erect a scrolling, electronic sign outside its store located at 142 Talcottville Road in the Rockville section of town.

The vote was 6 to 1 with Chairman Lester Finkle casting the lone dissenting ballot, saying the application met all the commission's requirements.

But the rest of the commission said the sign was still a disruption to drivers along Route 83 and presented a safety hazard.

©Journal Inquirer 2007