Storrs Center celebrates grand opening

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Storrs - posted Tue., Sep. 24, 2013
(L-r) Tommy Weeks, Colin Walters and Mike Marsters perform with the Funky Dawgz Brass Band at the Storrs Center grand opening celebration on Sept. 20. Photos by Melanie Savage.
(L-r) Tommy Weeks, Colin Walters and Mike Marsters perform with the Funky Dawgz Brass Band at the Storrs Center grand opening celebration on Sept. 20. Photos by Melanie Savage.

In 2001, the Mansfield Downtown Partnership was formed to help facilitate the development of a true downtown for Storrs near the University of Connecticut. In 2004, LeylandAlliance LLC was brought onboard as master developer and later joined by co-developer EdR. The team envisioned an authentic, walkable Main Street neighborhood where people could live, play, work and learn.

Construction started in 2011, and the first tenants and residents of Storrs Center moved in just over a year later. As Storrs Center enters its second year of operation, the first buildings are fully occupied, and many stores and restaurants are open and drawing patrons.

On Sept. 20, residents were invited to join the Mansfield Downtown Partnership, the town of Mansfield, UConn leaders, Leyland Alliance, EdR and local and state officials to celebrate the grand opening of Storrs Center. The atmosphere was festive, as visitors sat down at a series of tables set up on Dog Lane in front of an elevated dais. The Funky Dawgz Brass Band, a group comprised of current and former UConn students, provided a lively accompaniment as people took their seats. Mansfield Downtown Partnership President Philip Lodewick, who acted as emcee, spoke against a backdrop of vehicles and construction equipment, as work continued on the sites adjacent to the assembly.

“When we opened in 2001, I don’t think anyone would have thought that we wouldn’t have had this grand opening by now,” said Lodewick. Lodewick spoke of setbacks, including “a cataclysmic economic meltdown,” that served to slow the project down.

Mansfield Mayor Betsy Paterson also spoke of the progression of the project, thanking state and federal legislators for helping to procure the money to keep Storrs Center going. Paterson singled out MDP Executive Director Cynthia van Zelm for special recognition. “The decision to hire Cynthia was by far the most prudent,” said Paterson. “She has done an extraordinary job. She is the superglue that holds this organization and this project together.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D) thanked Lodewick, van Zelm, and other people who had contributed to moving the project along, saying that they had restored his faith in the power of groups and individuals to get things done. Blumenthal called Storrs Center “a model for what our nation should be doing,” pointing specifically to the sustainability features incorporated into the project, and the focus upon good stewardship toward the environment. “I will go back to Washington with a renewed sense of hope and determination,” said Blumenthal.

Other officials who spoke at the grand opening ceremony included Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, state Sen. Donald E. Williams, Jr. (D-29), state Rep. Gregory Haddad (D-54), UConn President Susan Herbst, and Howard Kaufman (Leyland Alliance) and Thomas Trubiana (EdR).

Live performances continued throughout the day on Dog Lane, and there were tours of apartments at The Oaks on the Square. Construction for Storrs Center is expected to continue into 2016. For more information, visit www.storrscenter.com.


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