Apartment/retail mix in Trumbull Center’s future?

TRUMBULL — Lessening traffic on nearby roads, adding businesses and making cosmetic improvements were some of the issues residents and town officials said would help revitalize the Trumbull Center corridor.

The comments came at a Dec. 2 meeting in which the public was invited to submit questions to town officials and others about the planned revitalization of the corridor, which stretches along White Plains Road (Route 127) from Tait Road to Reservoir Avenue. It was the third public meeting on the topic, and it opened with comments from First Selectman Vicki Tesoro, who spoke about the importance of this area to Trumbull.

“Trumbull Center, as we know, is a vital area for our residents and businesses, and for the future of our community,” she said.

The corridor includes two major business plazas on either side of White Plains Road. One contains a CVS and a Starbucks with a drive-thru. The other, at 900 White Plains Road, features multiple unoccupied storefronts, including one previously occupied by Starbucks, and another once occupied by the grocery store Porricelli’s Food Mart.

One issue addressed brought up was the prospect of bringing in new businesses to fill empty storefronts. A resident submitted a question about what kinds of establishments were being considered, and if any grocery stores were in the mix.

Many stores have approached, but nearly all of those contacted took issue with the fact that the available retail space in the plaza isn’t facing the street, said Rina Bakalar, Trumbull director of economic and community development.

“They do not want to locate somewhere where they have no visibility from the street,” she said. Though there are businesses that have expressed interest in the plaza, “that barrier of no street frontage is a big one.”

However, Bakalar said she is aware that a plan for redeveloping some of the vacant storefronts in the rear of the plaza into mixed use — with retail on the bottom and apartments on upper floors — could be coming before the town in the near future.

Also discussed during Thursday’s meeting was a $7 million improvement plan that would make the Trumbull Center corridor more attractive and improve traffic safety in the area. Traffic consultant Joseph Balskus talked about the possibility of multiple traffic improvements, including a “road diet” that would condense four lanes of traffic into two, and install turn lanes at appropriate intersections.

Balskus said the funding could largely come from federal and state dollars, but it’s still unclear how it will all be distributed.

Kate Montgomery, a landscape architect, spoke about some redesigns to the corridor, including expanded green space, a possible welcome center near the northern gateway of the corridor, and additional amenities, such as bus shelters, benches and bike racks.

One of the residents watching the forum online submitted a question asking why such consideration was being given to these improvements, instead of prioritizing drawing businesses to the area. Montgomery said “investing in streetscapes and green space” can go a long way to making a space more attractive to businesses.

Though aspects of the improvement — such as some of the traffic upgrades — can be done in the short-term, all of the experts said it could take years for the entire plan to come to fruition.

“It’s a road map for us to make improvements over time,” Bakalar said.