The e-commerce giant Wayfair and Lowe’s, the country’s second-largest hardware retailer, will be the tenants of the two mega-warehouses that National Development is building in East Hartford, the developer announced Monday.
At a groundbreaking ceremony, state and federal officials called the massive project at Rentschler Field transformational for the city, heralding the prospect of 1,000 new jobs, $4 million a year in municipal tax revenue and a badly needed refresh for a community that’s been struggling in recent decades.
“Today’s event is a sign that we are in full-scale recovery from COVID, we are on the move for economic expansion and recovery in Connecticut,” U.S. Sen Richard Blumenthal told more than 100 community and business leaders.
National Development, a major Boston-region developer, said that later this year, it will begin intensive work on advancing plans for a related project on the site: Twin 100,000-square-foot high-tech manufacturing centers alongside Cabela’s.
The state and town are especially interested in seeing the manufacturing centers open successfully, since they’re expect to create high-paying, high-value jobs with the prospect of attracting similar businesses nearby. Coupled with the Wayfair and Lowe’s distribution centers, the manufacturing buildings will bring fresh development to hundreds of acres that have largely been unused for years.
“This new logistics and technology park will be an economic driver for our state. It’s going to create hundreds of construction jobs and even better over 1,000 positions once it gets full,” Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz said.
Ed Marsteiner and Andrew Gallinaro, managing partners of Newton, Mass.-based National Development, called the Rentschler property one of the best development sites in southern New England.
The land is flat, extremely close to I-84, and already served by all utilities. Unlike warehouses that have been proposed recently in rural and suburban communities, this plan uses land that’s far from any homeowners and positioned to use the high-traffic connector for Rentschler Stadium.
National Development two years ago began planning a massive redevelopment of hundreds of acres of Raytheon Industries’ Rentschler Field, once a hub of aviation technology.
“Since 1933, this field was home to Pratt & Whitney’s Rentschler Field. When it opened, this was Frederick Rentschler’s field of dreams,” Mayor Michael Walsh told the audience. “Today, 90 years later, this is East Hartford’s field of dreams.
“We welcome National Development, Lowe’s and Wayfair and the vital economic relief they will deliver to my community in the form of jobs, material tax and fee revenue,” Walsh said. “This is the start of the long-awaited revitalization of Silver Lane with more coming at Concourse Park and Silver Lane Plaza.”
National Development is also making a $4 million payment to East Hartford, which will pay for building a new section of the East Coast Greenway in town as well as new athletic or recreational facilities, Walsh said.
U.S. Rep. John Larson, Walsh and state House Majority Leader Jason Rojas all told of having relatives who worked at Pratt & Whitney. Some described the air shows that were held until the 1990s, and others recalled how Rentschler Field served an integral part of the community for decades with visits from aviators Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh along with at least two presidents.
“The world has changed. Today we gather to celebrate the new use,” Rojas said.
National Development, one of Greater Boston’s biggest developers, plans to complete both warehouses by mid-2024. Under a massive tent on the Rentschler property, Marsteiner gave the audience some context about the size of the project, which is starting with the arrival of thousands of truckloads of soil to raise the ground level before foundations are poured.
“The 2.5 million square feet of combined floor area between the first two buildings is roughly equivalent to the square footage of the Empire State Building,” Marsteiner said. “But these buildings will have nearly four times the volume of the Empire State Building given that our ceilings heights are more than four times taller.
“Due to the high groundwater table on this site, you need to bring material in to raise the building up,” he said. “We need to place over a half-million cubic yards of material. That’s enough to fill the Rentschler Stadium to the brim nearly one and a quarter times.”
National Development praised Walsh’s administration along with Gov. Ned Lamont’s staff for working to make the project possible. Blumenthal said the redevelopment of Rentschler shows Connecticut’s economy is improving.
“National Development is voting with its feet and its dollars,” Blumenthal said.
By Don R. Stacom