The old Whalley Avenue CVS will get a new parking lot and cosmetic improvements — and still, despite some neighborhood opposition, become a Family Dollar in the end.
City Plan commissioners unanimously approved the site plan for the conversion of the existing 9,857 square-foot former CVS at 1168 Whalley Ave. into a Family Dollar during its regular meeting Wednesday night after one last public hearing. Neighbors who had hoped that they could convince the developer to find another retailer finally got to see a site plan and have their say about it.
The site plan calls for relocating the entrance of the store from the corner of the building to its longest side and reducing the existing 40 parking spaces on site to 25 spaces to include two handicap spaces, which is the minimum amount allowed. The parking lot will be repaved and regraded to flatten out the existing slope so that it will be ADA compliant. The amount of paved area will be reduced so that the site has more plantings and landscaping.
Engineer David Sacco said there will be some cosmetic improvements to the exterior of the building and some retrofitting inside, but no structural changes. There also will be improvements to the stormwater drainage system on site.
Elizabeth Donius, who heads up the Westville Village Renaissance Alliance, noted Wednesday that at community meetings some neighbors had expressed concerns about the plan to bring in Family Dollar, which does not have the best reputation in the city. (Read about Westville neighbor concerns here and here.)
“I am here personally because I wanted to see this plan and hear about how this use would be implemented, and bring the pressure that we can so that it is the best use and the best Family Dollar store we can have in Westville,” she said.
Dan Plotkin of the Windsor-based Northeast Retail, which is in the process of buying the building, said his company could not find neighbors a different retailer to move into the old CVS, but he and his partners heard them loud and clear about keeping up the site. (The old CVS there moved to a new building a block away.)
“The tenant is responsible for all exterior maintenance, snow removal, policing of papers and litter and landscaping,” Plotkin said. “Recognizing that has been a thorny issue for the residents of New Haven with respect to other of this tenant’s stores ... In this case, we required Family Dollar to operate this store in a manner that is consistent with their prototypical 9,000-foot stores that it builds from the ground up which is something they resisted but we managed to get them to agree to.”
Plotkin said in addition to the strict maintenance requirement in the Family Dollar’s 10-year lease, his company will have the ability to take over those responsibilities if Family Dollar fails to keep the store up to a standard that Northeast Retail believes is appropriate.
“Just Three Guys”
Westville neighbor Kathleen Bradley asked how Plotkin’s group will enforce those provisions.
“I’m pretty open-minded,” she said. “But people come in an say, ‘Oh, we’re going landscape it and make it look great,’ and they do, but it’s like putting lipstick on a pig — they never take care of it and, and before you know it, it looks really bad. My question is: What is the incentive to take back the maintenance of the property?”
Plotkin called it a fair question. He said that the lease outlines that if Northeast Retail takes over the maintenance, Family Dollar would have to pay that company the cost.
“We’re not a corporation,” Plotkin said. “We’re just three guys from Windsor, and we drive by our property often. The way a property is kept has a lot to do with its value ... and I can commit to you that it is my intention that this property is kept the way it ought to be.”
“Will you provide your own cell phone number to our alders,” Bradley pressed.
“I think Mr. Furlow has already got that number,” Plotkin said. “I know Lizzy does.”
Amity/Beverly Hills Alder Richard Furlow indeed has Plotkin’s number. He also has a bird’s eye view of the old CVS building: He can stand at the end of his driveway on Fairfield Street and look directly at it. He made the request for the public hearing so that neighbors had an opportunity to see the site plan improvements and so they might share their concerns.
He said he still has concerns about the circulation of traffic on site and what further impact it might have on the intersection of Whalley Avenue and Dayton Street. He also had hopes that the developers might consider window treatments similar to those that were deployed by developers of the new CVS, who used photographs of Yale and other landmarks in New Haven in its windows instead of advertisement, he said. That wasn’t up for discussion as part of the site plan review Wednesday.
“I don’t know that I will ever shop at Family Dollar,” he said. “But I do not want to walk by and see a garbage pile.”