Greenwich retail property supervisor orchestrating rebirth of South Windsor way of life heart

At a time when many retail centers are grappling with empty storefronts and a shrinking field of retailers to fill those spaces with, one Connecticut shopping center is seeing a renaissance.

The Promenade Shops at Evergreen Walk in South Windsor is making a comeback after more than a decade of uncertainty and retailers departing from the center.

There’s construction everywhere in the lifestyle center these days.

At the northern end of The Promenade Shops, demolition crews are taking down a long vacant Highland Park Market grocery store and prepare to build a new 50,000 square foot Whole Foods in its place. The new store is scheduled to open sometime in 2023.

Diagonally across the street from that site, earth movers are at work preparing a previously vacant space in the center for a new Shake Shack that will open by the end of this year.

Town Manager Michael Maniscalco credits the rebirth of the center to a change in management that brought in Greenwich-based Charter Realty to run The Promenade Shops at Evergreen Walk in October 2020. Before Charter took over management of the lifestyle center, it was run by Memphis , Tenn.-based Poag Shopping Centers, which was responsible for developing Evergreen Walk.

“The people with Charter have really put boots on the ground; they’ve had their people here a lot,” Maniscalco said. “In the past, we were working with Poag, which was a national company, and a lot of what we did with them was over the phone. It’s very different to be able to be out there on site with Charter’s people, working out whatever issues may arise.”

The Promenade Shops at Evergreen Walk are important to the community, he said, and not just because the lifestyle center is the second largest taxpayer on South Windsor’s most recent grand list.

“Evergreen Walk is one of the town’s crown jewels; It has put us on the map regionally,” Maniscalco said. “And we’re very pleased with the amount of effort and attention that is being put into it, particularly as we watch the standard mall scenario with stores being shuttered up or centers being closed down entirely.”

Maniscalco is not alone in his view of what Charter Realty has done at Evergreen Walk.

“It wasn’t at risk, but it was definitely headed in the wrong direction,” Burt Flickinger, managing director of New York City-based Strategic Resource Group, said of Evergreen Walk’s outlook before Charter took over. “Now, you will be getting a more exciting shopping experience that will easily be one of the best in New England.”

Charter manages about four dozen retail centers in Connecticut. In addition to managing Evergreen Walk, the company is also part of a joint venture that acquired the Blue Back Square mixed use complex in West Hartford in May 2021.

Some of the construction that is being done is the result of store locations associated with meeting the needs of the Whole Foods moving into Evergreen Walk, according to Karen Johnson, vice president of development for Charter Realty.

In addition to demolishing the long vacant Highland Park Market location at the northern end of the lifestyle center to make way for Whole Foods, Johnson said a Japanese restaurant, Sakura Garden, and Old Navy store at that end of Evergreen Walk are being relocated.

Sakura Garden will be moving to the southern end of the lifestyle center into a vacant space next to Connecticut Mattress. The big customer traffic generator at that end of Evergreen Walk is LL Bean.

“We’re very pleased they were willing to relocate,” Johnson said. “It’s a much better location for them and it will allow them to have and expanded dining area.”

Sakura Garden will open in its new location by mid-summer.

Old Navy will also be relocating to a new 21,000 square foot space at the intersection of Tamarack Avenue and Evergreen Way at the southern end of the lifestyle center. The clothing retailer is expected to be in its new space at the intersection of by mid-summer, she said.

The relocation of Sakura Garden and Old Navy will do more than clear space for Whole Foods at that end of Evergreen Walk. It will allow for the extension of the northern end of Evergreen Way, the main road through the lifestyle center, so that it connects with a neighboring Costco, which opened last November.

To get to Costco from Evergreen Walk currently, shoppers have to leave the lifestyle center property and travel a short distance north on heavily traveled Buckland Road.

Johnson said that the Costco is part of the larger mixed use complex, but is not part of the Promenade Shops at Evergreen Walk.

The Promenade Shops are part of a master-planned development that includes nearly 400,000 square feet of retail as well as commercial and residential space. The development also includes a 200-unit apartment complex, nearly 400 senior and assisted living units and a 110-room Cambria Hotel.

Charter Realty manages the master association for all of the parcels of land that make up the complex, according to Johnson. All of the parcels are under separate ownership, she said.

Lifestyle centers are a retail concept that really took off in the early 2000s. The number of lifestyle centers quickly grew from 30 nationwide in 2002 to 120 by the end of 2004, when Evergreen Walk opened.

The idea behind them is essentially to recreate the downtowns of years gone by, with parking in front of stores, which line either side of the lifestyle center’s main street.

Flickinger said that Whole Foods is a huge generator of traffic for any retail center.

“Your typical grocery store generates about 5,000 customers a week,” he said. “This store will generate 25,000 to 30,000 customers a week within a few years of opening. That is going to benefit Apple, it’s going to benefit Ben & Jerry’s, it’s going to benefit every store in that center.”

Joining the supermarket and the restaurant will be Goddard School, a private, early childhood education center that has over 500 franchised schools in 37 states and includes 11 Connecticut locations. A group of vacant retail units next to Ted’s Montana Grill at the center of the Promenade Shops will be combined into a 12,670-square-foot education space.

An opening date for the school has not been determined, a spokeswoman said.

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