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It Was a Busy 2017 in Economic Development in Hamden!


It Was a Busy 2017 in Economic Development in Hamden!

By: Dale Kroop

It’s time to look back on what we have accomplished over the last year. We often go through the holidays thinking about what we are doing after the New Year’s celebration. So let’s look at what actually happened in 2017 and what is in the pipeline for 2018. 

The Hamden economy is affected by the state and national economy. Given those influences, we have been fortunate to have not lost any significant amount of businesses or jobs in 2017. I believe that this is based on the diversity of our businesses and our efforts to retain them under our Business Cluster Program. Hamden’s unemployment rate is always roughly a half percent lower than the region as a whole, but workforce development remains the most important issue for employers. The unemployment rate keeps getting lower, creating new challenges in meeting employer’s needs.

So what happened in 2017?….

Shopping Center Retail…..To many, Hamden is most known for its retail sector and the Magic Mile. This year we had an active year in our major centers with much more coming in 2018. As you may know the retail market will continue to decline for many years because of the internet marketplace and particularly because of the growth of Amazon. It is clearly a new retail economy and not likely to change any time soon.  Citizens will begin to see alternate uses in shopping centers that reflect what is happening nationally. This includes schools, healthcare, arts, etc. Four of our five large centers have been doing well with minimal vacancy; we have a great deal of hope for the fifthcenter at Putnam Place in Highwood.

In 2017, we lost Bon Ton to the general retail market downturn but gained several other places in our traditional retail centers…..Burlington Stores opened in 2017 and took more than half of the former Bon Ton space…. Aldi committed to the former Toys R Us site and will open in the spring of 2018….. The Wine Merchant is expanding (to open summer of 2018) next to the new Aldi store….. The owner of the Hamden Mart, Kimco Company is now discussing the space left at Bonton and the old Wine Merchant space with different businesses…. At Putnam Plaza, the Mayor and I have been working with DLC Management to bring a redevelopment to this important center. We hope for a major announcement in the first quarter of 2018. The owner of the Hamden Mart is discussing some significant upgrades for potential new tenants.

Small Retail continued to grow in the food arena with the key growth happening at the Soup Girl, Moon Rocks Cookies and Ali Baba opening another restaurant. Three Brothers Diner in southern Hamden invested in a major renovation, while MiKro Restaurant began construction on a new restaurant, more than tripling its size….. Strong Kitchen and Cork and Barrel recently opened in Spring Glen, family owned Hamden Auto Body recently completed a large expansion, while Sherman Heights Bakery retail store plans a mid-2018 opening on Whitney Avenue …… Going forward we will explore how we can work with the Hamden Regional Chamber of Commerce and local civic association throughout Hamden to grow the market for small business owners of retail. 

Health Care…… The fasting part of our economy over the last ten years, health care had another successful year with more on the horizon. Many health care facilities have expanded their services to include home care for the elderly and disabled. Whitney Center has expanded into the home health market and several smaller home health care agencies have opened and prospered. One example is Home Health Specialty Services on Dixwell Avenue…. Doctor Robert Henry is just completing a new medical office building in Mount Carmel while the urgent care market continued to grow with the Express Urgent Care Center opening this year. Amity Physical Therapy is moving into their own home, converting the large building at former Centerville Lumber site into a new home in mid-2018. Finally we are awaiting word of a major announcement in the health care cluster that may fundamentally change the healthcare market in Hamden, creating new jobs and new opportunities for services in the region. So stay tuned.

Manufacturing, Distribution and Construction……Carlton Industries (maker of electric components) expanded its floor space by 40% and increased its employees by 25% following their move to Rossotto Drive.  Liuzzi Cheese and Elm City Cheese both plan for expansions while two breweries; Counterweight and No Worries Brewing Company opened for business. Distribution companies are expanding in Hamden with Contractors Direct moving to Hamden Business Park (concrete construction products) and Tri-Lift (construction equipment) will be expanding on Sherman Avenue in 2018. In construction related businesses, the Young Developers (roofing) and Carrano Fence both came to Hamden in 2017.

Destinations. These are larger sites that attract outside activity and investment. They are sites that may have been vacant or underutilized for 10 or 20 years. We can say that Hamden has had a good year in experiencing a turn-around of these locations. Centerville Lumber closed down several years ago and development is well underway for multi uses including a 115 room, Marriot Residence Inn, Amity Physical Therapy and a new casual restaurant. The former five acre, long vacant Himmel Brothers site will be converted into multiple uses including apartments and potential location for a new Veterans Services facility…..The development of the Hamden Business Incubator continued with over $2 Million in investment for the latest phase.

The Impact of Housing……Apartment development continues as two large projects got underway in 2017. Canal Crossing is a 393 apartment complex got started and 165 units will be completed by April of 2018. Two buildings are already mostly occupied. The overall project will be completed in 2019. Regan Development began construction of its 77 units housing project for people with disabilities and for veterans….. The total impact of these projects will be over a million dollars of new tax revenue and new residents with spending power. Two adjacent properties have been purchased by a developer because of these housing developments. Finally the Hamden Zero Energy House was completed and sold to a first time home buyer in 2017, opening the door for new innovation in home building.       

Transactions…. Three major sales of commercial properties in Hamden showed the strength of the investment market. The sale of 2340-2348 Whitney Avenue (corner of Whitney and Dixwell), Hamden Center commercial complex and the Marketplace shopping center all changed hands in 2017. These transactions increased conveyance revenue to the Town and ushering in new anticipated investment in property improvements in 2018.

Programs and Services……The Hamden Office or Economic Development and Neighborhood Revitalization continued to meet the programming needs of small business through its Business Assistance Center (BAC) and the Hamden Business Cluster program…. Both programs designed to build capacity for small businesses and to create a culture of success in Hamden. The BAC served over 30 clients in 2017 assisting with business planning and cash flow analysis. The Town held cluster meetings throughout the year in areas such as Real Estate, Health Care, Creative Industries and Solopreneurs. There will be a number of Cluster meetings in 2018.

Institutions and Collaborations:

Supporting non-profits and collaboration is indeed part of any sustainable economic development strategy. Often these institutions and these collaborations serve as an investment to the future of the Hamden community and the region. This is how you build the civic infrastructure that will sustain or grow the Town for the next 25 years.

Clifford Beers opened a new 11,000 SF Autism Center on 41 Marne Street in 2017. Clifford Beers will hire 20+ new teachers and employees. They will provide a valuable service to the region and will work directly with the Hamden Public School system is coordinating resources and services.     

We expanded our partnership with Albertus Magnus College in 2017 by developing an internship program and Hamden employee benefit program. Similar partnerships are being developed at Southern CT State University (Internships), University of New Haven (Family Business Planning) and Gateway Community College (Workforce Development and Internships). Hamden continues its partnerships with Quinnipiac University including the Fellowship Program and Workforce Development initiatives.    

Finally we continue to support and work with the Hamden Public School system as an important partner. We continue to work with DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) who helps students become entrepreneurs and leaders of tomorrow. In 2018 we will launch a workforce development initiative with the Hamden public school system that will match current workforce needs for businesses with career opportunities for Hamden students at the High School and Hamden Middle School. We are very excited about this partnership.

New Initiatives Begun in 2017: Our office began three new programmatic initiatives in 2017. These are in various stages of development and will make a larger contribution to the departments goals in 2018.

Energy: Hamden hired its first Energy Efficiency Coordinator. The purpose of this was to address important environmental conditions in the Town including its’ public buildings and create a plan for saving commercial and residential taxpayers money. The Energy strategy will include performance contracting, purchase of new technology (i.e. charging stations) and include the participation in energy conservation and sustainability programs 

Grants: The Town hired a grants consultant to explore grants for all major departments in Hamden. These grants would offset some of the capital and program costs in the Town general budget, help meet some of the programmatic service needs, and assist with capital planning 

Neighborhood Focus: In 2018, the Town will move forward with redeveloping the Highwood and State St Neighborhood Revitalization Zones committees.

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