HARTFORD — The proposed
redevelopment of the former Kmart site in Hartford Plaza by U-Haul
Moving and Storage appears dead, at least for now.
City Planner Justin Drew said he heard from the company after the
Plan Commission on Jan. 14 rejected the company’s proposal to
purchase and redevelop the site and it wasn’t good news.
“They said they were not interested in pursuing the matter any
further at this time,” Drew said.
City and local redevelopment officials could be forced to move back
to square one in trying to find someone to fill and redevelop the
vacant space at Hartford Plaza, which is also falling into
disrepair. Mayor Tim Michalak said he still hopes to talk more with
“That site is 18 acres and it’s a real shame to see nothing
happening there yet,” said Hartford Area Development Corp. Executive
Director Tom Hostad. “Something needs to be in there. It’s been
vacant way too long and it’s in such a prime location.”
Michalak said he plans to contact U-Haul officials again about what
could happen next, but wants to wait a while yet so he can “let the
issue simmer a while because we don’t want to rush to them seeking a
Michalak said that would make the city appear weak in negotiations.
He said he hopes to reach out to the UHaul management team soon.
In January the commission voted against approving the company’s plan
to redevelop the Hartford Plaza into a large U-Haul Neighborhood
Store. But the plan also included construction of some controversial
storage buildings on part of the property fronting Highway 60, which
city officials had problems with.
A motion was approved by the commission after being proposed by
Michalak, who is also commission chair, which stated the commission
would only approve the concept plan proposed by the company if
they built the 7,800 square feet of storage buildings on the east
and northeast corner of the property adjacent to Novak Street — not
along the highway.
“There are only three large commercial areas in the city (Hartford
Plaza, Walmart site and Piggly Wiggly) and given the existing
pattern of development in the city as well as the presence of
wetlands and other environmental concerns, it’s difficult to create
more. I doubt any more can be created,” said Drew at the
commission’s January meeting.
Michalak said it is unfortunate that the U-Haul officials have taken
the view that they have on a possible compromise.
“It’s like they feel ‘if we can’t get it all our way we are going to
take our ball and our bat and go home.’ We looked through the eight
examples of the stores they’ve built elsewhere that they sent us —
seven of them didn’t have the storage buildings directly out in
front of their buildings,” Michalak said. “So we thought it rather
peculiar they are telling us they don’t believe it would be
successful without the exterior storage buildings right up front by
the street, but then they show us several examples of elsewhere and
they weren’t used there.
“We thought the outside storage units could be more perpendicular to
the side, more of where the Ponderosa Steakhouse is located rather
than right out front,” Michalak said. “They turned almost
‘Pelosiesque’ when it came to negotiating; it’s like they are not
going to negotiate at all and ‘either our way or forget it’.”
Michalak said U-Haul representatives have put city officials in a
position where they are now willing to examine a broad variety of
ideas for possible use of the Hartford Plaza space, something “maybe
a little more highbrow.” “They’ve opened the door for other
opportunities now and if they don’t want to become a part of
Hartford, I think that’s to their detriment because we are a very
fast-growing community. We have the type of housing that would
benefit from that type of additional storage,” Michalak said.
“If they don’t want to be part of that, I’m sure over time we’ll
find someone who is. We need businesses that are willing to work
with the community and with the city. Not someone who’s just going
to come in, plop down a plan and they give us a take-it-or-leave-it
Michalak said the city has been flexible in the earlier negotiations
with U-Haul about the proposal.
“We’ve actually made three different changes to move toward what
they want and they have virtually made none,” Michalak said. “We are
not beholden to them.”
The Daily News has repeatedly left phone messages with U-Haul
officials and they have not responded.
<<EARLIER: Hartford panel rejects U-Haul development of former Kmart