Connecticut Post mall owners present master plan with apartments, offices, but no 'mall'

MILFORD — The owners of the Connecticut Post Mall recently unveiled a revised master plan.

And it doesn’t include the word, “mall.”

“We are calling it The Post and ultimately removing mall from the vision of this project as we go forward,” said Steven Levin, CEO of Centennial Real Estate, which owns the property.

In a presentation to the Milford Planning & Zoning Board’s Plan of Conservation and Development subcommittee, Levin described two phases of the mall’s redevelopment.

Phase 1 includes a 300-unit apartment complex on a four-acre portion of the property that was formerly occupied by the Sears Auto Center. The two apartment buildings would feature a central plaza that could be used for outdoor dining, concerts, farmers markets, and other outdoor events, Levin said

Phase 2 would be an expansion of Phase 1 that Levin described as a larger vision of the project. It would include demolishing the entire wing of the mall formerly occupied by Sears, which would free up 450,000 square feet of commercial space. Levin said he envisioned potential tenants including a medical center, innovation center, office space, an additional 200-unit residential project and two more plazas.

“We don’t have a specific plan past the first phase of this at this moment, but once we start the project on Phase 1, this vision is going to be part of the entire marketing campaign as what we are doing with the mall,” said Levin. “Hopefully, when people see what’s happening, office tenants, lab sciences and all who are looking for spaces in this area will be showing up saying ‘We need 20,000 square feet.’”

Phase 2 would likely require moving current tenants LA Fitness and Dave & Busters, but maintaining the largest part of the mall, between Macy’s and Target. The mall’s linear layout would allow the creation of a dynamic campus environment, he said.

“What we want is a lot of daytime traffic that will eat at the restaurants, that will eat and spend money in Milford,” Levin said.

Phase 2 would also include an extensive redesign of the front of the mall between Target and Macy’s.

“There is a row of restaurants and patios, but it’s very poorly designed,” said Levin.

“It’s not engaging, and it’s not how we would do it. We are going to redo that so we could also create much more pedestrian patio seating,” he said. “We are still going to pay significant attention to the part of the mall that is going to remain.”

PZB Chairman Jim Quish said he hoped Centennial would consider workforce housing prices while seeking tenants in either the medical or innovation centers.

“Not everybody who works in the medical field are doctors or anesthesiologists who make a lot of money,” he said.

He said he also hoped Milford’s history as an oystering hub could be highlighted through art or some other means.

Board member Jim Kader said he felt better about the revised plan than he did after Centennial’s initial presentation. He said the one concern he initially had was replacing what Milford had.

“You did say that you appreciate the cultural concern people have and I appreciate you saying that,” he said. “I like the idea of bringing in tech, science and research. The more of that, in my opinion, is better.”

Levin said the mall’s intent was not to compete with the downtown area.

“We want people to come here, and then the next night go to a restaurant downtown,” he said. “We do not want to interrupt the culture and the community of Milford. This is a different project.”

Quish said he appreciated the mixed use aspects of the project. Earlier presentations had focused more on apartment development.

“My experience is that there are many people who are worried about too many apartments and over-development,” Quish said. “But I do see that you need to, on paper, have apartments approved before you start commercial office, innovation, biotech type tenants. I do think it’s our board’s responsibility not just to get residential and nothing else.”

Attorney John Knuff said Centennial could submit an application for a regulation amendment in the next month.

“We think that we can have that discussion with the full commission and with the public in the context of a true public hearing,” he said.