12 Aug

There’s Life After Stop & Shop

Liese Klein Photo

 

With the shriek of tearing metal and the groan of splintering wood, part of a shopping plaza in Hamden was demolished this week, set to be reborn in a form the owner says is better adapted to the changing habits of shoppers.

Putnam Place at 1225-45 Dixwell Ave., formerly home to Stop & Shop and a series of discount retailers, saw the demise of a row of stores at the front of the plaza, demolished to make way for a brand-new, standalone CVS Pharmacy. It’s part of a years-long transformation that has seen the grocery store replaced in part by Porter & Chester Institute technical school and the former Fallas space soon to make way for a trampoline park.

“This is an example of the changing trend in how retail gets used,” said Adam Ifshin, CEO of Putnam Place owners DLC Management Corp. DLC runs 120 shopping centers nationwide, six of them in Connecticut. Ifshin said he is seeing changes across the company’s properties as traditional retail stores make way for schools, fitness centers, pharmacies and amusements like the trampoline park coming to Putnam Place.

Putnam Place before the demolition

“The reality is that this is what happens in adaptive reuse today of retail space –  you don’t necessarily get a supermarket to replace the last supermarket,”  Ifshin said. “The trends of use are changing and I think [Putnam Place] is a really good example of that.”

Stop & Shop management closed the Putnam Place store in 2013, citing poor operating performance relative to its second Hamden location a few miles up Dixwell Avenue. About 200 workers were affected, with some offered jobs at other locations.

The storefronts demolished this week were at the southern end of the plaza and were formerly home to a Little Caesars pizza, a T-Mobile phone store and Jimmy’s Clothing & Footwear. The new 12,000-foot CVS Pharmacy is expected to open by late fall and occupy most of that site.

Ramona Campbell, manager of clothing store Citi Trends, looks forward to more traffic from new tenants at Putnam Place

The changes at the center –  bordered by Dixwell and Putnam avenues and Scott Street –  have been positive for remaining retailers like Citi Trends, according to manager Ramona Campbell. The opening of the Porter and Chester Institute campus nearby earlier this year has brought in students looking for stylish clothing, she said. “It’s definitely busier. Every week we’ve been gaining new customers.”

The demolition in recent weeks has been contained to one corner of the center and hasn’t negatively impacted back-to-school.  shopping, Campbell added. She expects the new CVS to attract more traffic and benefit all, she added. “I think it’s going to bring a lot of business into the plaza.”

Hamden Porter and Chester Institute Director Phil Davenport inside one of the school’s electrical labs.

Over at Porter and Chester, brand-new Director Phil Davenport is also looking forward to giving his students more options for their breaks.
“It’s excellent to see the growth,” Davenport said, adding that many of his students travel to the campus by bus and spend a large portion of their days at Putnam Place. “It’ll just be more avenues for the students to find comfort and relief.”

The Porter and Chester campus was bustling on Monday, with students busy working at model building sites and in “clabs,” or clinical labs outfitted like hospitals and doctor’s offices. More than 300 students currently attend programs at the school’s Hamden location, which relocated from Branford to be closer to students seeking technical careers.

Students in a Porter and Chester Institute electronic systems classroom take a break at the school’s Putnam Place location.

The Hamden campus has been such a hit that Davenport and other administrators are considering expanding current programs in automotive repair, HVAC and nursing and adding a new program in plumbing.

“All these students are seeking careers,” Davenport said. “They receive excellent training so they can go right into a job.”

Next-door to Porter and Chester, construction workers were busy at the back of the future Aero Trampoline Park, a 50,000-square-foot fun center expected to open some time this fall. The park will occupy two adjacent storefronts and Hamden gave permission to gut the interiors on July 23, according to a posted permit. In addition to bouncing on trampolines, other Aero offerings include foam pits, dodgeball and bellicose activities like “slam ball” and “battle beam,” according to the chain’s website.

Tenants like Aero and Porter and Chester change the nature of a center, with customers spending much more time inside and occupying parking lots for longer periods, Putnam Place owner Ifshin said. However, the mix of newer tenants at Putnam Place allows for good turnover in parking and consistently high traffic for tenants, he added. The remaining three vacancies in the center would be ideal for a tenant like a restaurant or even another retailer, he said.

“We’re coming to the last phase of a multiphase redevelopment; it should be pretty stable going forward,” Ifshin said.

Source: By Lisa Kelin, New Haven Independent, August 7, 2019