Former quarry yields a town center for Oxford, Conn.

Originally published: ICSC Shopping Centers Today

For decades the five stone quarries that Haynes Group operated in Connecticut supplied the rock used for building homes, roads, bridges and other structures. Now one of those, its quarry in the town of Oxford, is providing a useful yield of another sort: a bona fide town center in a community that has never had one. Haynes, a diversified firm based in Seymour, Conn., last fall opened the first phase of its $70 million Quarry Walk mixed-use development. By next summer the project will include a number of boutiques and restaurants flanking a town square or community green.

“Oxford has no downtown — it’s a linear town separated by Connecticut Route 67,” said Kathy Ekstrom, development manager at Haynes Development, a division of the family-owned Haynes Group. “Quarry Walk is going to enable the town to have a downtown and a place to have functions like a summer concert series, an art festival or pumpkin painting in the fall.”

When completed, the project will bring 280,000 square feet of retail and commercial space and 150 residential units to this fast-growing New England bedroom community. About 100,000 square feet of retailers are operating now, including grocery anchor Market 32 by Price Chopper, an Ace Hardware store, a Dollar Tree, a Wine Market and a branch of Newtown Savings Bank, a 162-year-old institution in the state. The local post office is here too.

Construction of an additional 75,000 square feet is under way and will house a Five Guys, a Verizon Wireless, a day-care facility and several other tenants. Further, the firm has plans to begin construction of a 30,000-square-foot medical office building this summer and also anticipates bringing a YMCA to the project.

Haynes expects to begin construction on the residential portion in the coming weeks, with occupancy scheduled for as early as the first quarter of next year. There is pent-up demand for upscale rentals with hardwood floors, stainless-steel appliances and granite countertops, Ekstrom says, and Haynes is leaning toward building units in three-story buildings with garages and central elevators. A recreation trail will surround the 32-acre site’s perimeter, in some places bordered by boulders “the size of Volkswagens,” she says. 

“I don’t want to say that we’re cutting our teeth on Quarry Walk, because we have a wealth of experience in the building and construction industry,” said Ekstrom, who is overseeing the project’s leasing. “But it’s the first development that we’ve done of this magnitude.”

Haynes had always intended to develop the Oxford site, because Connecticut law requires quarries to have an end-use plan, Ekstrom says. In 2009 the company’s permit to remove material expired, but the economic downturn put its development plans on hold until 2014, when Haynes secured a lease deal with Schenectady, N.Y.–based supermarket operator Golub Corp. Soon afterward Haynes razed a massive rock wall that separated the quarry from Route 67, opening up the parcel for improvement.

The grocery store addition has been critical to Oxford’s amenity base, says Andrew McGeever, director of the town’s Economic Development Department. Before this, a trip to the supermarket in the closest town took about an hour.