After growing up in town, developer helps lead revitalization of downtown Windsor

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WINDSOR — Greg Vaca grew up in town and now leads a new downtown development. He attended high school down the street, fell in love with downtown, and returned after college in hopes of rejuvenating the once bustling neighborhood.

“I grew up near Windsor Centre,” Vaca said. “We were riding bikes around town, and we were going to the baseball card store and we were going to the ice cream store. We had a Baskin-Robbins – there was all that to do. The pharmacy was more like a community center, right? And all of that is gone.

Vaca is the founder of Grava Properties and he plans to convert the Windsor Center Plaza into a three-story building with apartments above the first-floor retail space.

The existing building is set back from the road, but Vaca plans to change that with this project.

“We’re going to rebuild the street line, and with very traditional architecture, so that the city of Windsor has all three walls of its bedroom again, resembling the green of the city,” Vaca said. “We’re basically going to put the historic street wall back where it was.”

Grava Properties plans to own and operate the properties under an agreement with the Mastriani family, owners of Windsor Center Plaza.

The property is within walking distance of Windsor’s CT Rail and Amtrak station, making it part of the city’s transit-oriented development district. The project will be funded by $2.5 million in federal funds.

The Planning and Zoning Commission will vote on the future of the project in September. Planning and Zoning Commission Chairwoman Anita Mips said the project was a great way to get people back downtown, but declined to comment on whether the panel would be inclined to vote in favor of it.

If approved, construction will proceed in tandem with a $1.2 million state-bonded “road diet” project on Broad Street (Highway 159). State Representative Jane Garibay, D-Windsor, has supported the project from her role in the Legislative Assembly and co-executive director of the First Town Downtown organization in Windsor.

“We’ve been working hard for 10 years to get a map of what people want to see in their city,” said Garibay, who lives on Broad Street. “I like smart streets. I want to be able to walk in our city.

Part of the research conducted by First Town Downtown found that 70% of people who drive downtown use the road as a thoroughfare and do not stop at any business. She hopes the updates will attract and retain young people.

“(Young people) want to walk,” Garibay said. “They want services, shops and restaurants. It’s a certain lifestyle.

The road scheme would reduce the number of lanes from four to two with a central turning lane on Broad Street in the city centre.

“The road design will slow down this traffic,” Garibay said. “People will learn that traffic is slowing down downtown and stay on the freeway. It’s a whole different way of thinking about it. »

Most concerns about the project relate to traffic, according to Vaca. He said a traffic study indicated it would not negatively impact the area, especially since the aim of the project is to increase foot traffic.

“We are the perfect city for this type of development,” Garibay said.

emily.disalvo@hearstmediact.com


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