BERLIN - The new dealership for Acura should be opening by the end of this month.
John L. Orsini of Executive Auto Group said he was close to receiving the dealership license from the Department of Motor Vehicles for his new Acura dealership at 224-256 Berlin Turnpike last week. All that remains is the landscaping and final touches, he said.
The dealership will be the new location of the Acura dealership in town, which is currently located at 245 Webster Square.
“I’m pretty excited about it,” said Orsini.
Orsini and his group, which owns 14 franchises from Hartford to Wallingford, purchased the 7.93 acres for $2.3 million in March, after having the site permit approved in January.
“It’s all about the customer service,” said Orsini on why he wanted to open the new dealership.
The new 29,080-square-foot location will have an increased new car and used car sales department, a car wash, 22 service bays and 60 employees. The current location had about eight service bays and less than 30 employees, he said.
“I believe the turnpike is making a revival,” said Orsini, referencing the hit it took after the construction of Interstate 91 about 15 years ago and noting the Stew Leonard’s, Starbucks and other local retail stores in the area.
Zoning regulations for the turnpike made it hard for dealerships to open on the turnpike, requiring at least an 80,000 square foot building, which is typically used for big box stores like Kohl’s, Petsmart and Michael’s, explained Development Services Director Hellyn Riggins.
Orsini, though, presented an amendment to the Planning and Zoning Commission requiring only a minimum 25,000-square-foot building as long as it was accompanied by an additional 15,000-square- foot minimum building. The P & Z commission accepted the amendment, and granted the special permit use in July 2015.
As such, along with the new dealership is an additional 17,250-square-foot retail building, which is expected to house four businesses, Orsini said. A nail salon, two dentists, a protein shake store and breakfast restaurant are close to having a deal made, he added
“(The buildings) are going to get you (to go), boy, what a beautiful building,” said Orsini.
The new dealership, which will be one of the largest Acura dealerships in the state, Orsini said, will feature access from the Berlin Turnpike and Episcopal Road on the other side. The lot sits north of CVS and across the turnpike from Brickyard Plaza.
“We like the amendment,” said Hellyn Riggins, director of development services for the town of Berlin. “You look at the buildings Mr. Orsini has built and they are top quality.”
Orsini also said he is in the works to obtain property surrounding 224-256 for future development, and is working on a contract for a TJ Maxx or Homegoods to fill the location.
When the permit was approved, the project was expected to be completed within 18 months. However, rain delayed the project, Orsini said, preventing paving to be completed.
Demolition of the previous buildings on site, which included The Berlin Lunchbox and The Bakery, began last summer, and construction soon followed. The Bakery relocated to 1083 Farmington Ave. The Berlin Lunchbox is still without a new home and is in talks with economic development director Chris Edge to reassess their business plan.
“I’m very excited, the building looks great,” said Edge. “I’m hoping between (the retail) with the Petsmart across the street we’ll start to get a little more activity. It’s a very different feel. It is an upper tier area and we’ll hopefully see some more development in the area.”
The current 12,000- square-foot dealership on 2.5 acres north of the Webster Square Shopping Center is still listed through Berkshire Hathaway Home Services for $1.49 million. Orsini said he looking to lease the property with an option to sell it.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.