campolindo water polo East Hartford’s Rentschler Field To Get Outlet Shopping Center
The redevelopment of East Hartford’s Rentschler Field dormant during the last recession is picking up momentum, first with plans for a new headquarters for Pratt Whitney and now, an outlet center with as many as 80 stores.
Hartford based United Technologies Corp., which owns most of Rentschler, has signed a “letter of interest” with a Michigan based developer to build an $85 million factory outlet center on about 50 acres of the former airstrip. The center could be open by the summer of 2016.
Horizon Group Properties Inc.’s plans for “The Outlet Shoppes at Rentschler Field” are in the earliest stages, as crucial tenants leases, financing and zoning approvals are still needed.
But Horizon’s chief executive Gary J. Skioen said Thursday he is confident that Horizon will be successful in attracting tenants; some prospects visited the site this week.
“We’re pretty confident about the site,” Skioen said. “We haven’t started in many sites that we haven’t completed.”
If built, the outlet center would be the first retail development on the 650 acre Rentschler Field since Cabela, the outdoor sports and lifestyle store, opened in 2007.
The closest outlets to East Hartford are on the shoreline, in Clinton and Westbrook. Outlets tend to offer shoppers merchandise directly from manufacturers at cheaper prices.
Horizon now operates seven outlet centers nationwide, one in Gettysburg, Pa., being the nearest to Connecticut, according to its web site. Horizon has three more centers under construction, and it is looking to develop two other sites. East Hartford is not yet shown on a map plotting Horizon’s footprint.
Skioen wouldn’t name potential tenants or those that had visited East Hartford. But some brands mentioned on its web site at Horizon’s other outlets are Aeropostale, Coach, Gap, Polo Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger.
Horizon is the second developer in a year to sign an agreement with UTC to build a retail complex on Rentschler.
Utah based OTB Destinations had planned a much larger, 1 million square foot retail and entertainment complex a year ago. But UTC and The Matos Development Group, the master developer of Rentschler, began looking for another developer in December when OTB couldn’t secure state and local subsidies.
Daniel Matos, founder of The Matos Development Group, said Thursday the amount of sought after subsidies was never disclosed by OTB, but he estimated it to be about $100 million.
Matos said the more modest version for the outlet center outlined by Horizon would ensure that there wouldn’t be the need for massive public subsidies.
Although OTB is no longer involved with the project, it aggressively marketed the site to potential tenants, increasing its exposure in the retail industry, Matos said.
Horizon’s plans also include a possible, future 50,000 square foot expansion. Skioen said there would be restaurants but the emphasis would be on the outlet stores. Buildings would be connected by covered walkways and landscaped courtyards, plus a center court and children’s play area.
UTC, in a statement, said Thursday it believes Horizon can successfully advance the economic development potential of Rentschler Field.
UTC “believes Horizon’s vision for the site has the potential to build on the success of the existing Cabela’s retail project and further realize the site’s full economic value for the region,” the statement said.
The announcement comes two weeks after the state and UTC announced a deal that includes the construction of a new Pratt headquarters and an expansion of UTC’s research center, on the edge of Rentschler.
The outlets would be built about 10 miles from the sprawling Buckland Hills mall in Manchester. Skioen said the outlets haven’t taken much of a bite out of traditional malls elsewhere in country that are near Horizon outlet centers.
What outlet stores at Rentschler will do, however, is compete with other outlets, and draw shoppers from a wider geographic area.
“Currently, people are leaving Hartford to go south to the outlets along the coast,” Skioen said. “What it means is that they will stay in the Hartford area.”
Horizon said the center is projected to generate more than $130 million in annual sales and $1.2 million in property taxes and $8.2 million in sales taxes.