lone truck is parked outside the former Kmart building
along Highway 60 in Hartford.
Daily News file photo
HARTFORD — Since
Kmart closed its Hartford Plaza location along Highway
60 in the city, less than a handful of businesses still
operate in the complex and very little activity appears
to be going on at the site.
But despite that appearance, city officials and
community business leaders have remained active in
trying to find a new use for the declining property.
Within the last few months the city applied for and
received grant money from the state’s Brownfield Grants
Program, which is coordinated by Washington County.
“The grant was for about $24,000 and other remaining
costs are to be paid by Equitable Bank, who has taken
over the property,” said Hartford Area Development Corp.
Executive Director Tom Hostad. “We are all hoping a site
redevelopment study can show other possible uses for the
land so a developer can be enticed into redeveloping the
City officials and business leaders are concerned about
having any large piece of property vacant in the city,
but this property, because it is located along Highway
60 on one of the city’s main entrances, is especially
concerning to them. Vandewalle and Associates, who has
done previous work for the city successfully, was
awarded the contract for the study.
“We want to determine the best way to move forward to
market this property and we feel this study should be
able to make the correct decision,” said Mayor Tim
Michalak. “The bank has been helpful in stepping forward
and working with us on this. The bank currently has a
company working to sell the property.”
Michalak said those involved want to see what is the
property’s best use.
“We certainly have had thoughts about we feel that
property could sustain for the betterment of the entire
community, but you have to have a developer that’s
willing to step up with you and partner with you on
that,” Michalak said. “I’m very optimistic. It is a
prime location. Conducting the study is showing that the
community is willing to marshal its resources to work
with a developer that has the imagination to move
forward with something the city believes is something
profitable for a developer and a real benefit to the
Michalak said Hartford is not the only community that’s
been dealing with what some are calling “big box blight”
when they leave the community.
“We don’t want to get someone in there for just for the
sake of filling it for the short term; we want to have a
plan that will be a long-term solution that we won’t
have to worry about the property for a long time,”
City Administrator Steve Volkert said through the study
they are also looking at the statistical information “on
where our market lacks or has a surplus of different
properties, commercial, residential, warehousing, etc.”
Volkert said the study will be completed by the end of
November and will be used again to help market the
different aspects of the property for the bank and
realtor. City Planner Justin Drew said the study is only
in draft form and needs more work before it can be
completed and released.
With Kmart’s closing, there is about 135,000-square-feet
of vacant space — nearly 86,500 square-feet from the
former Kmart location. That includes the 38,000 square
feet left vacant when Sentry Foods closed. Kmart opened
at the Hartford location in November 1991. There are
three other smaller businesses spaces available for
lease that were formerly occupied by Dollar Express,
Little Caesars and Radio Shack.
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