Finally Complete, Storrs Center gives Alums and Parents a Vibrant College Town
UConn alumni who haven’t been to Storrs for a few years won’t believe their eyes when they see the new college town that has sprung up next to campus.
A small cityscape of four- and five-story apartment buildings anchored by retail stores and restaurants stands along Route 195 where lonely stores and rundown strip malls used to be.
Ice Monster, offering thin sheets of Thai ice cream rolled up like an eggroll, and Grille 86, a restaurant with 40 flat-screen TVs, filled the last two vacancies in the development this spring. A total of 81 shops and services, ranging from Insomnia Cookies (for midnight warm cookie cravings) and cafes to an Amazon pickup center and boutiques, fill the vibrant downtown area.
Returning alums and parents will find an array of restaurants to choose from, including pizza, frozen yogurt, sushi, Indian, and Korean choices.
“Our alumni simply cannot believe that there are stores, restaurants, and shopping available in Storrs!” said Montique Cotton Kelly, the UConn Foundation’s vice president for alumni relations. “As the town continues to evolve, we want to make sure that we continue to invite our alumni back to take part in helping to make this area a true destination.”
Nestled in the center is a town square with an outdoor stage and a smattering of red tables and chairs. On summer evenings, it is host to concerts and family-friendly movie nights. Locals and students come to a Celebrate Mansfield Festival in September, and the Storrs Stroll is now part of Huskies Forever Weekend every October.
“Before, if you were a student, there was really nothing going on beyond classrooms and sporting events,” said Philip Lodewick ’66 (BUS), ’67 MBA, ’14 H, who chaired the Mansfield Downtown Partnership that developed and helps manage the project. “We wanted to provide a sense of place, a destination where people would come and loiter.”
“Alumni reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. They love it. The main thing I hear is ‘Why wasn’t this here when I was here?’ ” said Cynthia van Zelm, executive director of the Mansfield Downtown Partnership.
The $220 million project, which is reminiscent of Blue Back Square in West Hartford, greatly expands Mansfield’s rental market. All of Storrs Center’s 618 apartments are all fully leased, mostly by students who enjoy the granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and rooftop terraces. Also, the project has 32 town homes and 10 condos, all but one of which is sold.
The compact development also includes a parking garage with free parking for the first two hours, encouraging folks to visit and wander. A new Price Chopper supermarket anchors one end of the project.
While talk of having a real college town in Storrs has been going on for decades, planning for Storrs Center actually began in earnest in 2002. Construction began five years ago and finished in November 2016. The Mansfield Downtown Partnership, a public-private partnership, developed and assists with managing the Center.
“The Storrs Center project to me is probably the most important project done at the University for decades,” Lodewick said. “It really allows the University and community to come together. The number one reason a lot of top students and faculty were not coming to the University before was that there was really nothing going on at the University. Now there is a walkable, viable, vibrant downtown. I think the project has had an immense impact on the University and the community.”
Posted by: Grace Merritt