Costco expected to open in East Lyme by 2017

East Lyme — Costco, the big-box warehouse store, has signed a lease with the developers of Gateway Commons with plans to open by 2017, a representative for the developers said Thursday.

The store’s design is underway, and Costco is expected to come before the Zoning Commission for permitting “in the very near future,” said attorney Theodore Harris.

Harris presented the Zoning Commission with updates regarding the long-planned residential and commercial village near Interstate 95's Exits 73 and 74.

The developers have also been meeting with DOT officials and are applying for approval for their interim plan to locate the entrance to the commercial development south of the originally planned location.

Zoning Official Bill Mulholland said the DOT prefers the original plan for the final product, but would allow an interim driveway.

The commission approved a master development plan for the overall project several years ago, prior to the economic recession. 

Recently, the developers finished constructing 280 rental units for the residential section near Exit 73.

The developers have yet to present a final site plan for the commercial phase, which is closer to Exit 74. The developers have permission for 425,000 square feet of retail space with one big-box anchor store and up to five "junior anchor stores."

Thursday's meeting served as a pre-application review for the Simon Konover Development Corp. of West Hartford and KGI Properties of Providence. 

Harris told the commission Thursday that he expects construction on Costco to attract other stores to the site and serve as "the catalyst to start the rest of the development."

He said the state Department of Transportation has committed to improving the overpass at Exit 74 so there are six lanes of Route 161 (Flanders Road) underneath it and also to making other upgrades to Flanders Road to mitigate traffic concerns.

Developers said they understand the DOT plans to go out to bid for the overpass project in 2016.

The developers received approval last year from the Zoning Commission for an interim plan to locate the Flanders Road entrance to the commercial development south of the originally planned location and closer to the existing Exit 74 exit.

This is on land the development company owns, they have said.

Newton Brainard, vice president of Simon Konover, said after the meeting that the interim plan will allow for Costco to open and also includes temporary, improved on-and-off ramps for I-95 South Exit 74.

Once the state permanently redesigns the overpass, traffic will flow better, and other stores will be able to locate to the Gateway area and along Route 161, said Brainard.

The final plan will also include fully improved on- and off-ramps, he said. 

After the commission adopted zoning regulations governing the Gateway Planned Development District, a former light industrial zone, in 2001, the developers brought a master development plan to the commission in 2007.

They received approval in 2008 for a modified version with fewer housing units, after holding workshops with residents and the commission to address concerns.

Harris said the site had previously attracted few applicants because it has little frontage on Flanders Road, suffered from traffic issues near Interstate 95 and lacked immediate access to sewer and water.

He said the developers have made significant investments in infrastructure.

The developers' recent proposal to allow an additional 120 units to the existing 280 units at the residential site is before the Planning Commission.

The commission will advise the Zoning Commission about whether or not the request is consistent with the town's Plan of Conservation and Development.

k.drelich@theday.com

Twitter: @KimberlyDrelich

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