By Erica Moser Day staff writer
Three former Benny’s sites in southeastern Connecticut stand vacant. Three different owners are working to fix that.
When the Bromberg family announced in September it would be closing all 31 New England locations by the end of the year, longtime customers were left wondering what they would do without their favorite store.
And now people are wondering: What will happen to the thousands of square feet that previously held everything from tires to tools to toys?
Carpionato Group, a Rhode Island development company, announced in late November that it would purchase 29 of the 31 Benny’s locations. The Connecticut locations the company is buying are Norwich, Killingly, Danielson and Old Saybrook. The Norwich location is 20,705 square feet.
“Norwich is a very pro-development community, and so we look forward to a productive relationship there, as we get this project finished,” said Kelly Coates, a senior vice president with Carpionato Group.
He said the company won’t be making its first announcements on new tenants for the Benny’s sites until sometime in the spring.
Bob Mills, president of Norwich Community Development Corp., said he envisions the site as a pharmacy, hardware store or medical facility.
NCDC received a call from, and returned a call to, Carpionato Group but has not yet connected.
“I would love to work with them, or whoever buys the site or leases the site, to help them integrate into Norwich,” Mills said.
Asked about marketing efforts, Coates said the Carpionato Group booth “was very popular” at a recent International Council of Shopping Centers trade show.
He is conservatively estimating that the $100 million redevelopment effort will create 750 jobs.
Along with the four sites in Connecticut, Carpionato Group is purchasing 11 in Massachusetts and 14 in Rhode Island, including Westerly.
“We want to get the tenant that best mixes with the local community and will have the best likelihood of success long-term,” Coates said.
The Groton site is one of the two not sold to Carpionato Group. Benny’s leased the building from Chris Regan, whose family has owned the Groton Shopping Plaza since 1952.
Regan said there has been “strong interest” in the 17,200-square-foot building, and that he’s been in discussions with five tenants. He noted that future use could be retail but that “the possibilities are endless.”
Depending on the needs of the future tenant, Regan thinks the building would either stay the same size or be expanded, not subdivided.
Redevelopment of the Benny’s site is part of a larger vision Regan has for the Groton Shopping Plaza. Regan is waiting on Town Council approval of downtown Groton as a TIF District, in which tax increment financing will apply.
Tax increment financing allows some property tax revenue from development to be used for development costs or related economic development. It is not a new tax.
The Benny’s store on New London Turnpike in Norwich is one of the 29 former Benny’s sites purchased by the Carpionato Group, a Rhode Island development company. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
“That’s going to go a long way in the redevelopment,” Regan said. He noted that the TIF designation will change the area “from just strictly commercial to a mixed use, where we’ll have office (space), we’ll have apartments and then we’ll have retail.”
He said that nationwide, millennials want to live in a mixed-use area that has a downtown environment.
Paige Bronk, manager of economic and community development for the Town of Groton, said he has spent about six months developing TIF policies and procedures, and will be asking the Town Council for approval later this month or next.
Whereas the Benny’s locations in Norwich and Groton closed after the Bromberg family announced the closure of all stores, the Waterford location has been vacant since the end of February.
According to town records, the owner of 40 Boston Post Road is Noel Associates. The address associated with Noel Associates is listed online for Silverman Realty Group, which has 40 Boston Post Road listed under “Connecticut Leasing” on its website. Silverman Realty Group did not respond to requests for comment.