“Building boom” is a phrase not often used in Connecticut as the state’s slow-growing economy, fiscal issues and declining population have dampened investment in real estate and other development.
But there have been some pockets of significant activity. One town that’s seen its fair share of development in recent years is Bloomfield. In fact, the town of nearly 21,000 saw $189.2 million worth of construction projects between 2015 and 2017, ranking it 14th among the state’s 169 cities and towns in overall investment, beating out much wealthier and/or larger municipalities including West Hartford, Windsor and Glastonbury.
“There is a lot of construction going on,” said Town Planner Jose Giner. So much so that Bloomfield has had to add three full-time building inspectors over the last five years to keep up with all the work. Another hire could be on the way.
The list of recently completed Bloomfield projects, which has exceeded the town’s expectations, includes both commercial and residential developments, Giner said.
They include: hundreds of new apartment units; the $73 million Niagara Bottling Co. plant; Trader Joe’s 690,000-square-foot, nearly $80-million distribution center, which has brought with it about 800 jobs; a newly built corporate headquarters for manufacturer Deringer-Ney Inc.; a multimillion-expansion of the Seabury Home retirement community, among others.
And, there are more projects in the development pipeline, headlined by health insurer Cigna Corp.’s plans to invest $90 million-plus to renovate its Cottage Grove Road corporate headquarters and Swiss industrial-power/technology conglomerate ABB Group’s decision to establish its North American product-development center in a recently purchased 84,000-square-foot manufacturing facility at 45 Griffin Road South.
Meantime, the next phase of a town center apartment development could soon get underway. The first phase of that project — construction of the 215-unit Heirloom Flats luxury apartments — was wildly successful, having been fully leased within a year before being sold in January for $61 million to a New York investor.
Giner said a wetlands application has been submitted for the project’s next phase, which will include 42 apartment units constructed on Bloomfield Avenue, across from town hall.
Paul Butler, who is the principal of 25 Jerome Avenue LLC, is the project’s master developer. He acquired property in the town center and received approval in 2014 to build 407 apartments in three phases on Bloomfield and Jerome avenues and Jerome Way.
So, what’s led to the Bloomfield building boom?
R. Michael Goman, principal of realty brokerage firm Goman + York, which provides economic-development consulting for the town, said Bloomfield’s central location — next to key highways and the employment centers of Hartford, West Hartford and Windsor, as well as more broadly New York and Boston — makes it attractive for residential and commercial development, including distribution centers.
Just as important, Goman said town officials have created a business-friendly environment.
“There are a lot of towns in Connecticut that wait on the next opportunity to come to their door,” Goman said. “What Bloomfield has been good at is taking a much more proactive stance to adding businesses to the community. If you want to attract companies you have to go out and compete.”
Bloomfield’s use of tax abatements also helps, Goman said, especially when the town is competing with other low-cost locales.
Cigna, for example, was looking at Phoenix and Nashville for its expansion plans, both of which have much lower operating costs than Connecticut, Goman said. However, it committed to investing $90 million to reinvigorate its Bloomfield campus after the town approved a multi-year tax abatement that will save the company millions of dollars in property taxes, Goman said.
“The tax abatement was critical,” Goman said.