Wallingford retail corridor buzzes with new activity



WALLINGFORD — With its high traffic count, Wallingford’s Rt. 5 retail corridor is bucking the regional trend and undergoing a transformation.

According to the Central Connecticut Alliance for Economic Development (CCAED), a number of automobile dealerships are investing millions of dollars in construction along Wallingford’s retail spine, significantly enhancing the commercial landscape.

In February, Executive Auto Group opened Fiat of Wallingford, spending close to $500,000 to renovate and expand a former Dodge dealership at the intersection of Rt. 5 and Orchard St. Besides the Fiat dealership, Executive Auto also renovated a former Saturn dealership also on Rt. 5 and converted it into a Kia dealership.

Valenti Auto Sales is also constructing a 16,888-square-foot, $2.2 million addition to its existing Chevrolet dealership at 399 North Colony Road. Like Executive, Valenti is also in the process of renovating & expanding its Porsche & Audi dealership on Rt. 5. Construction on both projects was performed by PDS Engineering & Construction.

In addition to the auto dealerships, there is an uptick in commercial construction along Rt. 5 as well. TD Bank is expanding its presence in Wallingford and constructing a $1.8 million branch bank at 928 North Colony Road (also a PDS project). This February, a newly constructed CVS pharmacy opened at 865 North Colony Road. Adding to the Rt. 5 transformation, the site will also include a 14,500-square-foot retail mall and a 6,800-square-foot car wash.

 SHELTON — First Niagara Financial Group has completed a $4.5 million commercial mortgage refinancing loan with the Sports Center of Connecticut, located on River Road in Shelton. The loan will be used to refinance existing debt and provide new working capital, allowing the owners to service their customer base and expand the complex into other areas of sports and entertainment.

Principally owned by Alan Phillips, the Sports Center is home to the Rinks at Shelton (formerly Bishop Rinks), the world’s only double-decker ice-skating arena, with two NHL-size rinks stacked one on top of the other.  It is also the official practice facility of the American Hockey League’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

The 15-acre facility also houses a golf center with a double-decker year-round golf driving range, putting green and 18-hole miniature golf course, bowling lanes, baseball/softball batting cages, Lazer Tag and a state of the art Game Zone video arcade. 

First Niagara saw the commercial mortgage loan as an opportunity to finance a special-purpose piece of real estate that draws more than 1.5 million visitors annually. 

“The success of the Sports Center has always been a direct result of the imagination and expertise of its owners,” said First Niagara New England Regional President David Ring. “They recognize the opportunity to provide the state with a truly unique sports and entertainment facility, and we’re excited to provide them with the financing needed to continue to grow their business.”

 Per capita personal income in Connecticut grew by 4.9 percent last year, faster than the nation as a whole, according to a preliminary estimate that shows the state remaining the wealthiest in the nation, well ahead of No. 2 Massachusetts.

If the total amount of income were divided equally between every man, woman and child living in Connecticut, each would have received $56,889 last year. Connecticut’s closest rival, Massachusetts, had a 2011 per-capita income of $53,621.

 HARTFORD — The General Assembly voted unanimously March 28 to adopt a so-called circuit-breaker measure that would freeze state fuel taxes for the next 15 months, affording at least temporary relief to consumers who pay the nation's highest gasoline taxes.

But majority Democrats in both chambers also rejected Republican amendments to cancel a gas tax hike slated to take effect in July 2013. While the circuit-breaker will pare roughly 1.4 cents off the state's fuel tax burden, the next tax increase would add nearly four cents per gallon.

The measure next heads to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who was expected to sign it.

 WATERBURY — Webster Bank has launched a full-service private bank that will work with individuals, businesses or non-profits with $1 million or greater in investible assets, the bank announced March 8. Webster private bankers will operate in seven regional teams throughout the four-state footprint that now stretches from Westchester County, N.Y. through Connecticut and to Rhode Island and Boston.

"The principles that guided my father when he founded the bank are still with us," said James C. Smith, chairman and CEO of Webster Bank. "At Webster, we respect the confidence our customers place in us. We strive to fulfill our responsibility to do right by them. We say its part of our DNA or our 'Type W Personality.' Webster Private Bank will up that a notch, providing comprehensive solutions and resources from a local team who you know and trust."

Products and services to be offered include customized credit products such as specialized credit card, mortgages and collateralized loans; premium banking services including checking with no access fees for ATMs anywhere and money market accounts with preferred rates; trust and estate services such transfer planning, conservatorship, securities custody and special asset management; philanthropic and financial planning services.

Webster Bank is a subsidiary of Waterbury-based Webster Financial Corp., which operates 171 branches and 485 ATMs in Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. It has approximately $19 billion in assets.