Seeking a fresh start for a failing section of town, East Hartford is set to take over the dilapidated Silver Lane Plaza – Hartford Courant

Complaining about decades of disrepair at Silver Lane Plaza, a string of East Hartford residents on Friday hailed the city government’s progress toward acquiring the property through eminent domain.

If City Council approves the idea Tuesday night, East Hartford could have control of the 20-acre property before the end of the year, Mayor Mike Walsh said Friday.

A city panel voted unanimously on Thursday evening to proceed with the seizure of the half-empty mall, and the reaction on social media was overwhelmingly positive the following day.

The city posted the vote on its municipal Facebook page and more than 65 people added comments – almost all praising the decision. Comments like “Finally!” “good news” and “thank god how awful” appeared in the early hours.

“What was important was to see the community come together and in a strong, even voice say they support this,” Walsh said of Thursday night’s redevelopment agency meeting.

Eminent domain allows the state or individual communities to take private property where there is a strong public interest to serve. The government must be able to demonstrate this interest and must pay the owner a reasonable price in compensation.

It’s a power cities rarely invoke. When they do, they typically target land needed to complete a local school, road, police station, fire station, library, or other basic municipal service.

But under narrow conditions, state law also permits eminent domain to take severely neglected or degraded property.

East Hartford officials have warned that two massive development plans in close proximity – one for more than 470 apartments, the other for two mega-warehouses and a medical research complex – could be jeopardized if the place isn’t there. not modernized or demolished.

East Hartford has two appraisals for the Silver Lane Plaza which average around $4.5 million. The city has received federal assistance that will cover this expense, but has made no progress in negotiations with owner East Hartford Venture LLC.

Walsh’s administration has said over the past year that the owner has shown no interest in good-faith talks, even though the city has informed him that upgrading the property is crucial to a plan for redevelopment. redevelopment of the entire Silver Lane corridor.

Calling the square “an eyesore,” lifelong resident David Case told the agency that he and his family support Walsh’s plan to buy it up and tear it down. The city would then seek developers for residential or mixed development of the land.

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“We are at the crossroads of New England. We want people to come here, shop here, live here. I want to see us grow,” Case said. “It’s not just a plan to bring things down, it’s a plan to revitalize this city.”

Resident Eileen Driscoll agreed.

“This thing is ugly. It’s like a rotten apple,” Driscoll said. “I’m not a big fan of eminent domain, but when it has to be done, it has to be done.”

Don Poland, principal planner at consultancy Goman + York, said late Thursday that the city’s redevelopment plan for the Silver Lane corridor includes less retail and more multi-family housing and mixed-use development. The plan clearly lists the square as one of three key properties that need to be restored, he said.

In the past, the Silver Lane Plaza property manager has said the city overstates the state of disrepair. The company did not comment on Thursday night’s decision.

Walsh said the city is committed to helping the square’s small number of stores and service businesses relocate before construction.

“At the end of the day, these are East Hartford businesses and we really appreciate them,” Walsh said.

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