Pratt & Whitney said today it will sell the former Rentschler airfield to National Development, which plans to use the site for unspecified commercial development.

The Boston-based company has developed more than 30 million square feet in 45 communities, it says on its website. Its projects include development of offices, research and industrial facilities, retail, senior housing, multifamily, and hotels.

The 300-acre site off Silver Lane has more than 280 developable acres, with access to interstates 84 and 91, officials with Pratt & Whitney and CBRE, a commercial real estate company, said in a statement.

It includes much of the historic Rentschler airfield, decommissioned since 1999, and the Cabela’s 185,000-square-foot retail store; it is adjacent to the 40,000-seat football stadium, which is home to the University of Connecticut Huskies.

CBRE, which handled the sale of the property, believes the site is the largest and most convenient development site available between New York and Boston.

Edward Marsteiner, managing partner at National Development, said the company is evaluating possibilities for the site.

“The combination of the central location, the immediate highway accessibility, and the access to a densely populated labor pool is unparalleled,” he said

Marsteiner said the company has a track record of partnering with communities on projects. “We look forward to collaborating with local and state agencies to finalize the sale and bring economic development to this currently underutilized parcel,” he said.

“This brings tremendous opportunity for economic development to Rentschler Field, which could have a very positive impact on the overall Greater Hartford area,” said Shane Eddy, senior vice president and chief operations officer for Pratt & Whitney.

Raytheon Technologies Corp., the parent company of Pratt & Whitney, said when the land was put up for sale in February that the sale won’t affect operations at Pratt.

House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, praised the selection of National Development, which he said has a 40-year history in New England. He cited the company’s portfolio of over 30 million square feet of mixed-use, industrial, life science, and commercial projects.

“This significant investment in our community will serve as a catalyst for additional development at Rentschler Field — bringing good paying jobs to East Hartford and helping to grow our tax base,” Rojas said.

Rentschler airport was in use for 66 years. At various times, Chance Vought Aircraft Corp., Hamilton Standard, and Pratt & Whitney all had operations there.

After World War II, it served as a private corporate airport.

This is not the first time the historic airfield has been offered up for potential commercial development.

In 2014, Illinois-based Horizon Group Properties began planning “The Outlet Shoppes at Rentschler Field,” a $105 million mall featuring about 70 retail tenants and restaurants. At the time, Horizon officials said the proposed shopping center would create around 1,000 permanent retail and food service jobs, and town officials estimated a tax benefit of around $11 million over a 10-year period.

Issues securing funding, however, shut down the project numerous times. By 2018, would-be tenants had begun to back out of their lease agreements, and Horizon walked away for good.

By Nancy Thompson
Journal Inquirer

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