Storrs Center branches out
Published: Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 10:09
With shovels going in the ground more than a decade ago, the Storrs Center project in Downtown Mansfield is developing at a steady rate, and residents and students alike in the town are excited about what it has to offer.
Located in an area that used to include a few businesses scattered around Dog Lane and Storrs Rd., the Storrs Center is bringing more business -- and more importantly for Mansfield, more tax revenue -- to the town. Already there are 75 businesses employing 123 workers, but the project is not yet completed.
The main group behind the project is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization called the Mansfield Downtown Partnership (MDP) and is a combined effort from both the town of Mansfield and UConn. Cynthia van Zelm, the partnership’s executive director since the year after it was established, said the area is “a 50 acre site and Leyland [Alliance LLC real estate development company] is working on about 17 to 20 acres.”
When asked about how she thinks Mansfield residents feel about the Storrs Center, Betsy Paterson, who used to work in UConn’s Bursar and Financial Aid departments, explained that from what she hears, the majority of residents are very happy with the development.
“Mansfield -- Storrs -- is heavily dependent on state aid, which has been decreasing over the last few years, and if we get less state aid it means we either cut programs or we have to increase resident property taxes,” said Paterson.
The development has already received upwards of $26 million from federal, but mostly state, funding in grants. Meanwhile at Storrs Center, there is also an expected $6 million tax revenue to be generated from FY2014-2015 to FY2021-2022. For the environmental impact, van Zelm added that more trees are being planted and buildings are being built to LEED standards.
“We looked at this for a long time with the idea of having controlled economic development and that’s basically what this is...because of the intricacies of a public/private partnership, it [has] taken more time than we had anticipated to get it up and running but, so far, we’re very pleased with what we have,” said Paterson, a Democrat who has been mayor since 1999.
Dr. Steven P. Lanza, executive editor of The Connecticut Economy, quarterly in UConn’s Department of Economics, said it appears “stores are keeping busy” and that he has not “seen any kind of mass exodus yet. All apartments are being rented. They are meeting milestones that they have set up for themselves.”
“One would expect that the difficult period would be now, as they’re just starting out. As it expands,” Lanza said. “As it gets bigger, it will have more and more business. For example, once price chopper opens up, it will attract more people and traffic [to the area].”
Dan Malkin, a 5th-semester accounting and composition double major, said “the Storrs Center will be a great addition to the UConn campus, giving the students more options without having to travel far.”
“Before the Storrs Center,” Malkin said. “The best places to go would be at the Union for late night. Now there is going to be a lot more restaurants and other stores to meet up.”
Some of the places opening within the next two to six months are Price Chopper, a second UConn Co-Op bookstore, the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, and three UConn medical facilities (UConn Dental, UConn Health Center, and UConn Urgent Care).
For those interested, the Mansfield Downtown Partnership also created a blog for people to monitor pictures and updates of construction at Storrs Center (http://storrscenterconstruction.blogspot.com/). More information is also available at StorrsCenter.com.