Storrs Center has not been without controversy since ground was broken June 2011. The Connecticut Laborers' District Council has criticized LeylandAlliance for using out-of-state contractors and nonunion workers. Kaufman said LeylandAlliance has held on-going talks with union leadership, noting that 71 percent of contracts to build the parking garage were union contracts. In addition, 70 percent of the workers on site for the privately-constructed portions of the first mixed-use buildings were from Connecticut and 85 percent of the work was subcontracted to Connecticut subcontractors, van Zelm said.
One challenge designing Storrs Center was to create the feel that all the structures were not built at the same time as would have been the case in a town or city that had developed over decades or even centuries.
To achieve that look, buildings were designed with irregular walls on street-level, some jutting out, others receding back. Entrances to storefronts are at different intervals. Sidewalks include steps up and down. Windows are different shapes and sizes. Clapboard, brick and metal roofs are intended to bring a touch that is quintessentially New England.
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"It gives the feeling of something that happened organically over time," Kaufman said.
Banking On Success
In one of those storefronts last week, Holly Upton, owner of a longtime barber and styling shop on campus, settled into her new space. She's anxious for more prominent signage that will direct her customers to her new place from the aging, nearby shopping center where the shop had been located since the 1950s. That center soon will be demolished to make way for more of Storrs Center.
The hair styling shop, Skora's Barber Styling Shop, joins a tattoo shop, a Bank of America kiosk, a travel agency, a physical therapist and an automotive repair shop that are now open, with a Subway sandwich shop soon to follow. Additional openings such as Froyoworld, Insomnia Cookies, Moe's Southwest Grill, Mooyah Burgers & Fries and Sweet Emotions candy, are expected through the end of the year. Some shops are expected to accept student Husky Bucks.
Upton started working at the shop in 1984 when she was 19, just out of hair styling school. She bought the business six years later and has run it ever since, keeping its longtime name. She counts former UConn men's basketball coach Dee Rowe among her clients.
Pulling out a newspaper clipping from 1969, detailing plans for a similar development, Upton says she can hardly believe that Storrs Center is being built.
"I've been hearing about this for a long time," she said. The clipping predates her, but she points out the development cost. "Twelve million. Can you believe that?"
At first, Upton was worried about the move and was pleased that workers were able to move the 1950s wooden barber stations and vintage, swivel chairs, complete with razor-sharpening strops. Upton said she didn't have much choice but to move because the shopping center was being razed. Her rent and expenses will be double what they were. But she hopes the new visibility — her shop was on a lower-level — will boost her business. She also plans to eventually rename the shop Husky Head.
"I hope this place will be the place to go," Upton said. "People don't want it to fail. They want it to do well."
A day later, Kristen Quann was moving into an apartment on one of the four floors above Upton's shop.
As an undergraduate at UConn and now a second-year graduate student, Quann has watched the apartments at 1 and 9 Dog Lane being built. She looked at other apartments off-campus but didn't like their condition.
The Storrs Center apartments are pricey on a grad student's budget. Quann said she is paying $1,400 a month, but that includes all utilities except electricity, plus trash removal. There is a $60 monthly parking fee and a one-time, $300 fee for pets.
Quann had hoped to rent a studio, but they were all leased.
Prices range from $1,000 a month for a studio to $2,650 a month for a 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom unit. Sizes range from 420 square feet for the studios to nearly 1,100 square feet for the largest units. Apartments are outfitted with stainless steel appliances, and a washer and dryer in each unit.
"Even if they are a little more expensive, they are new and corporate run," Quann said. "It's beautiful, and if I get a job around here I would love to stay here."
Kenneth R. Gosselin covers real estate for The Courant. Follow him on his blog at courant.com/propertyline and on Twitter @kennethgosselin.