The 14.9-acre Elmcrest property was acquired by Fouad M. Hassan, an accountant from Shelton, CT, and his investment group, Perry Portland Associates LLC, more than a decade ago from St. Francis Care Behaviroal Health. Hassan teamed up with developer Anthony Fonda of Watch Hill, R.I., to develop the property into "Portland TownPlace". Fonda also developed a Walgreen's on Saybrook Road in Middletown, CT, in addition to (presumably) a number of other projects in the region. Their attorney is Ralph Wilson of Middletown, CT.
Portland TownPlace Devopment History (A Brief Chronology)
May 7, 2009
The Portland Planning & Zoning Commission (PZC) held a public hearing for the following:
Application #08-25: Special Permit request for a proposed mixed use development on 14.89 acres (14 properties) to consist of 149,127 square feet of de commercial tenant space, 82 residential units and related site imprivemnts to include parking, landscaping, lighting and traffic control measures...Application of Anthony C. Fonda and Fouad M. Hassan aka Portland Town Center, LLC...Zones B2 & B3/TCVD Overlay Zone."
The Applicant's attorney, design team and consultants presented the plans for the development as follows:
The original plan called for a first phase of construction with a 15,000-square-foot pharmacy, a 65,000-square-foot grocery, a 5,000-square-foot restaurant with outdoor seating, and a bank, as well as a mixed-use structure with retail-office space on the ground floor and 31 units of townhomes and apartments above. The second phase of contruction would be a six-story residential tower with 51 units of condiminiums or apartments. The developers proposed constructing "replica" structures with salvaged architectural elements from the historic homes, retaining only the Sage House in its entirety. They proposed demolishing all but the central block of the Hart-Jarvis House and rebuilding new wings for the structure. The Erastus-Brainerd, Jr. House be razed.
July 9, 2009
PZC met to review revised plans from the Applicant and hear the Applicant's team address concerns previously raised. As these revised plans were received 7/8/2009 it was agreed to continue the pubic hearing on 7/30/2009.
July 30, 2009
PZC met to discuss other issues and concerns raised previously which were again addressed by the Applicant's team. The public hearing was closed and the PZC voted unanimously to approve the mixed use development with 23 specific conditions attached including No. 1, "That this approval will expire in 5 years."
The following are some documents relating to the review/approval process outlined above:
The Development Process as of Spring, 2014.
In an appearance May 21, 2014 before the Board of Selectman, Fouad Hassan stated that the current development process will be "tenant-driven" in response to the downturn in the economy since "Portland TownPlace" as was approved in 2009. Thus, he blames the Great Recession for his decision to abandon preservation efforts for the three properties on the Elmcrest Campus, claiming the project can no longer support their renovation or reuse. He further claims that potential tenants demand sightlines to Marlborough Street that preclude keeping these historic structures in their current location. He has offered the structures for free to anyone willing to relocate them off site.
Beyond the historic structures, the developer has abandoned plans for a $40 million, mixed-use development with a 60,000 square-foot shopping center, retail space, and townhouses in favor of a conventional shopping strip center. The original retail anchor (a 60,000-square foot supermarket) is not signed on for the site, and the developer has determined that apartments and townhouses may have to wait. Hassan now claims, “Whatever the tenant wants is kind of what we’ll have to go with. In a seller’s market you could sit back and decide what you want to do with the buildings. But this is a buyer’s market, and the buyer dictates policy."
Hassan stated that "we'll probably be coming in for a revised site plan and vision based on what we have in the works." Regarding the historic houses, Hassan stated that, "I think they all just have to come down."
At this meeting, Bruce Tyler, the current PZC Chairman, advised the Board of Selectman that what Hassan was now proposing represented "a major modification of the approved project" and noted that in his opinion, the entire development would need to be reviewed anew by the PZC.