Category Archives: West Hartford economy

Kingswood Market closing doors

After 70 years in business on Farmington Avenue, the Kingswood Market is closing down, according to a story in today’s Hartford Courant. The owner can’t afford the rent hike sought by his landlord.

While the market is only vaguely familiar to me — I’ve run in a few times over the years — this strikes me as yet another indication that West Hartford’s economic success could wind up turning the town into another oasis of upscale chain stores and high-priced eateries, devoid of any particular local flavor. It’s a problem most communities would be only too happy to face, but it’s nonetheless troubling.

What, after all, make West Hartford different than other well-off little cities? We’re sort of like a college town, with better housing and no tailgating. We have the shops, the restaurants, even the bookstores (a rarity in America today). But if someone a decade from now looks around arrives from another state and looks around, will they see anything at all that couldn’t be in Ithaca, Madison, Northampton, Charlottesville or Iowa City? I’m not sure.

As rents rise, it becomes ever harder for strictly local businesses to make a go of it. The overhead gets so high that it becomes risky to sign a lease. The long-term prospects for our familiar bookstores, hardware store, sports shops and more are increasingly shaky despite a stunning prosperity everywhere you look.

So I’m sad to see the market shut down. It hurts its neighborhood, of course, but it’s also perhaps the canary in the coal mine.

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Filed under Kingswood Market, West Hartford Center, West Hartford economy

Ben & Jerry’s opens on Memorial Day weekend

Torrington Register-Citizen’s Business Blog

Why does Torrington give a damn? I have no idea.

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Filed under ice cream, West Hartford, West Hartford Center, West Hartford economy

Stop & Shop needed in West Hartford

The King’s View blog, a wonderful West Hartford blog, make a great case for a better grocery store in our town. Check it out.

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Filed under grocery store, Stop & Shop, West Hartford economy

A devastating blow to West Hartford schools

Today’s story in The Hartford Courant quotes David Sklarz, the school superintendent, as saying last night that he faces “the most difficult reductions that I’ve had to present” in searching for ways to pare $1.8 million from the next education budget.

Now I could understand why this year posed problems if we were in the middle of a recession, if people were losing their homes and jobs, if everyone was taking a hit. But that’s not the case at all. The stock market’s soaring. Jobs are plentiful (though I recognize good jobs are still hard to come by). The economy is treating us kindly, for now.

So why are we in a budget-cutting frenzy?

Simple: because the town council is more scared of the West Hartford Taxpayers Assocation than it is of the voters.

As a result, it whacked $1.8 million from the school budget, threatening to wipe out Quest, erase extra help for our most troubled schools and even slice away full-day kindergarten at a handful of elementary schools. A disaster looms if these cuts go through.

Yet Theresa McGrath, president of the tax group, told the school board last night to find even more cuts. Why don’t we just put closed signs on the doors of our schools and tell our best and brightest kids to move, quickly, to Simsbury or Farmington? This is all nuts.

The story in the Courant today is typically awful. It mentions that a handful of parents spoke to the board, pleading for some programs. None of them are quoted by name. Only oneschool board members is quoted, so we really don’t know what they’re thinking in any detail either, which is a shame.

I’m afraid that the Courant’s lackluster interest in the crisis facing our town is going to make it so most parents are barely aware of what’s happening, if they know at all. Information is scant — whichever side you come down on — and there’s no place to get the facts that we need.

The one school board member who is mentioned in the story, Terry Schmitt, said the list of proposd cuts is a “classic example of how unfortunately wrong” McGrath is about the severity of what’s at stake.

This is a moment of truth for West Hartford. We need to defend our schools against a spurious attack by council members and self-styled taxpayer advocates that will gut good programs and set back education.

It’s not going to get easier for us in the next few years. If we start scaling back now, we’re in deep, deep trouble.

40 Comments

Filed under Board of Education, budget, David Sklarz, education, Hartford Courant, News, referendum, Schools, Terry Schmitt, Theresa McGrath, town council, West Hartford, West Hartford economy, West Hartford Taxpayers Association

Blue Back Square cited as model for growth

Blue Back Square photo

 Blue Back Square now

Developer Richard Heapes was heaping it on in Maryland this week, according to a  story in The Gazette, which covers the DC suburbs.

Pushing for more developments like Blue Back Square, Heapes “pointed to a project his company, Street-Works, is building in West Hartford, Conn., as an example. West Hartford gave his company $50 million in bonds to do $200 million of construction for Blue Back Square, aimed at revitalizing the city’s center.”

“By working with city officials and community organizations, including a neighborhood church, an American Legion post and the merchants’ association, his company will turn that $50 million into $80 million worth of assets and amenities, Heapes said. The organizations got an expanded library, new church entrance and a small movie theater available for free to groups,” he told a planning board there, according to the paper.

Let’s hope he can keep bragging about Blue Back Square for the next couple of decades.

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Filed under Blue Back Square, News, Richard Heapes, Town government, West Hartford, West Hartford Center, West Hartford economy

Pawn shop has no place in West Hartford

The Hartford Advocate has a sickeningly sympathetic story today about Seth Boynick, a commercial real estate broker whose application for a pawn shop on Park Road got unanimously rejected by town councilors last month.

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Filed under Hartford Advocate, Park Road, pawn shop, Seth Boynick, West Hartford economy, Zoning

West Hartford-based Colt could lose contract

 From a forum on www.militaryltd.com:

“The debate over the Army’s choice to purchase hundreds of thousands of M4 carbines for its new brigade combat teams is facing stiff opposition from a small group of senators who say the rifle may be inferior to others already in the field.
“In an April 12 letter to acting Army Secretary Pete Geren, Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn said purchase of the M4 – a shortened version of the Vietnam-era M16 – was based on requirements from the early 1990s and that better, more reliable weapons exist that could give Army troops a more effective weapon.
“Coburn asked the Army to hold a “free and open competition” before inking sole-source contracts worth about $375 million to M4 manufacturer, West Hartford, Conn.-based Colt Defense – which just received a $50 million Army contract for M4s on April 20.
“I am concerned with the Army’s plans to procure nearly half a million new rifles outside of any competitive process,” Coburn wrote in the mid-April letter obtained by Military.com.”

Anybody know whether this would have any impact one way or another on our town?

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Filed under Army, M4, military, Pete Geren, Tom Coburn, West Hartford economy