One way to attract big businesses and and a strong workforce to the area is to build a town customized to fit their needs — a town complete with residential units that range from classic, single-family homes to studio apartments for rent above retail shops, and eateries designed to attract patrons from near and far, located within walking distance of sprawling recreational facilities and open space.
That's what Massachusetts-based company Winstanley Enterprises and ABB plan to build in Windsor. With the development and transition of ABB's property off of Day Hill Road into Great Pond Village, the two companies and town officials are hoping to allow the town to remain competitive as a potential home for employers and their employees while maintaining the current property tax base, to which property owners contribute 30 to 40 cents on every dollar the town makes, according to Town Manager Peter Souza.
Both Winstanley and ABB addressed the town council and the planning and zoning committee on Wednesday, presenting a concept plan for a development like no other in the area.
The proposed 653-acre development would include:
- 4,010 residential units, including multifamily homes, condos and rental units, and single-family attached and stand alone homes for sale.
- a projected population of 7,847 residents upon completion (including 720 children who could attend Windsor Public Schools).
- 640,000 square feet of small business and corporate office space.
- 85,000 square feet of retail space.
- Connection to the Farmington River and Northwest Park trails
- State of the art technology (broadband wireless access, community intranet and energy efficiency)
- 355 acres of open space, recreational space or natural preserve (including small, neighborhood parks throughout the development).
- A pedestrian-oriented market district with small retailers, restaurants and an active market house (year-round farmer's market).
"This is not a gated community," said David Winstanley of Winstanley. "It's a unique project unlike anything in the area... In New England people tend to build small developments with little risk. This is a big risk... We know the potential is there, and we think we have the right piece of land to do it on."
One of the major reasons the risk is worth taking, according to Jim Burke, economic development director for the town, is the need to attract the people businesses are looking to hire: young professionals.
"If we don't do something like this... It's more likely that we'll lose companies," Burke said.
The reason for the potential loss of Windsor companies is the inability to find a large, qualified workforce nearby, said Burke. Winstanley added to Burke's assessment of Windsor's attractiveness to young professionals, saying that people move to either Manchester or Middletown after graduating from college. Windsor's lack of rental properties is tha largest contributing factor, added Burke.
"Workers who are coming out of college need a place to live," said Burke. "Over 68 percent of housing in Windsor is owner occupied. We haven't built a rental project in Windsor in 35 years."
The property, to be built on the former engineering and development site that was once Combustion Engineering, would be completed over a 14 to 20 year span.
According to a December 2010 Hartford Business article, the project would cost $750 million; however, it was revealed during the town council meeting Wednesday night that the town would not be responsible for bonds issued to fund the project.
In addition, a financial study commissioned by Winstanley and ABB and conducted by TischlerBise, Inc., a national group that analyses cost growth and revenue enhancement issues, found that the project would yield approximately $2 million annually to the town.
Inflation was not taken into account in the study, however, the study did find that "projected revenues are sufficient to pay for capital improvements," which would come in the form of a new fire station and apparatus, new police station or substation and vehicles, and additional seats for added students, all needed to serve the growing population in town, according to TischlerBise principal Julie Herlands.
According to town documents, the former Combustion Engineering property, located off of Day Hill Road and used in the company's production of fuel for nuclear power plants and development of fossil fuel technologies, has undergone an intensive cleanup program over the past 15 years.
The cleanup process is expected to be completed this year, according to ABB's Web page dedicated to the cleanup effort. According to the site, the cleanup is on track to meet local farming standards, making it suitable for a person to "live on the site and be able to get water and grow food on the site safely for 40 years."