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Town Plans Major Projects for 2012

New businesses, renovations, and extensive road construction in the works.

A number of changes and improvements are planned for West Hartford during 2012. In the coming weeks, as winter segues into spring, residents will see new businesses opening up, renovations being made to existing buildings, and the start of extensive roadwork.

According to Director of Community Services Rob Rowlson, there will be activity occurring in all areas of town.

In Bishop’s Corner, the dilapidated parking deck that stands behind will be removed this month in anticipation of major improvements to that shopping center. Rowlson notes that it will be a “summer of transition” for this busy north end of town.

The Marshall’s shopping plaza is in the process of getting a facelift as new facades and tenants are being added. A small restaurant is planning to move into the former Barnes and Noble spot, and a retailer has been signed to occupy the former Petco space. In addition, a grocery store will take over the space left vacant many years ago when Adam’s supermarket closed. A stand-alone bank will be built on the property on the south side of Marshall’s along North Main Street.

On the other side of North Main Street, in the shopping center, Mooyah, a burger and shake restaurant, will be opening within the next few weeks, and the will be undergoing a renovation to its exterior and interior that should last through the summer.

Rowlson proudly reports that the retail and office space environment continues to hum along in West Hartford Center and . Despite the still-difficult economic climate, only two vacancies remain in the Center – one on LaSalle Road and the other in the site.

And while Blue Back has had a few business closings recently, including Uncorked and Stride Rite, Rowlson states that numerous prospective clients are showing interest in these spots. A small, regional retailer has signed a lease to open next to and Verizon will be reopening once again in the space it had previously occupied on Raymond Road.

In Corbin’s Corner, is planning on downsizing its store, repositioning a portion of its building to rent out to another tenant. Chipotle Mexican Grill will open a few doors down from Sears, offering outside dining in the nice weather. The American Savings Bank, next to the , is planning a renovation to the exterior of its building.

Over on Park Road, vacancies remain but the opening of last year, combined with the , has brought a lot of new traffic to the area. The road will be welcoming several new tenants in the coming weeks including a new consignment shop, a Thai restaurant and Fabulash.

Rowlson is also pleased to report that Elmwood, which has seen a in 2011 with the openings of , Ideal Image, , , and on Newington Road, is at capacity.

With the encouraging news of the town’s thriving economy comes the “tough stuff,” as Rowlson refers to it, shifting his train of thought to what will be disruptive and inconvenient roadwork projects due to begin this spring.

“It’s important to continue to maintain our infrastructure,” emphasizes Rowlson, displaying a chart indicating that almost 33 percent of the town’s roads are either in poor or extremely poor shape at this time. This year, eighteen miles of those will be worked on either by the DOT or the MDC in conjunction with the town, or by the town alone repaving roadways.

Either way, the majority of the projects will affect the east to west flow of traffic in town. The impact on major arterial roadways and the ensuing detours and periodic closures will be difficult for drivers.

Along Farmington Avenue from Trout Brook Road to Hamilton Road, the MDC will be replacing water lines in what Rowlson predicts will be a rather painstakingly slow process. Once the water lines are replaced, Rowlson assures that the town will be right behind the MDC, resurfacing and replacing the pavement.

Another big project will occur along the Boulevard from Raymond Road to Four Mile Road. A deep sewer line must be replaced and Raymond Road will certainly be blocked off for some of the time. The intersection of Boulevard and South Main Street will be greatly impacted and Rowlson says that the town is going to press the DOT to receive the necessary rights to create two left turn lanes from Boulevard onto South Main Street to detour traffic efficiently.

Route 44 from the West Hartford line through Bishop’s Corner will be repaved and Rowlson says that the town is going to use that opportunity for the DOT to revisit the crosswalk design at the intersection of North Main Street and Albany to improve pedestrian access.

However, it will most likely be the Elmwood section that will have to grin and bear extensive disruption of their roads for months to come. The New Britain-to-Hartford t is due to begin construction in May and with it will come construction vehicles and building equipment that will have to be stored. The State will build three bridges over New Britain and Flatbush Avenues and Trout Brook Drive to help ease the congestion.

In addition to the Busway, a project to beautify New Britain Avenue will continue into its second year, with new brick sidewalks and lighting, the placement of islands in the street, new crosswalks, and plantings.

“We are trying to change it from strictly a vehicular road to a road that shares itself with pedestrians,” observes Rowlson. “Our biggest concern for the employees of stores and offices that line New Britain Avenue is getting them safely and comfortably to and from the businesses. These great businesses need to be serviced.”

When the end of the roadwork finally comes, Rowlson assures that all of the inconveniences will have been worth it. “When it’s done, I think it’s going to be greatly appreciated by everyone around here.”

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