Costco gears up to open in East Lyme on Nov. 14

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East Lyme — After months of clearing, blasting and building, officials from the Costco big box store under construction off Interstate 95 confirmed Tuesday the date that the wholesale club will officially open

“It took a little while to nail down the exact date, but yes, it is happening on Nov. 14,” Joe LaCerva, general manager of the East Lyme Costco, said Tuesday morning. He added, “We are very excited to be here in East Lyme.”

As part of recent preparations leading up to the store’s opening, the wholesale chain has placed large blue and red brand signs along the side of its newly constructed building off Exit 74 — which can now clearly be seen from the highway — and also has opened a membership sign-up center at Route 161’s Midway Plaza so as to “offer a space to sign up before the building opens and to avoid those lines,” LaCerva said.

The center is open seven days a week, and offers prospective customers the opportunity to speak to representatives about membership options, as well as potential employment. As part of the sign-up period leading up to the store’s opening, Costco is offering pre-opening incentives for new members, LaCerva said.

He said those interested in signing up can either purchase a Gold Membership for $60 annually or a $120 Executive Membership, which gives buyers 2 percent cash back on all their purchases, as well as other bonuses. Shoppers must have a membership to make purchases at Costco.  

LaCerva also stated that those who have a membership have a money-back guarantee. Both annual memberships will extend through November 2020 and allow members to immediately make purchases online with their membership cards before the East Lyme store opens.

He said the store will hire more than 230 employees in coming months, with more than 160 to be brought on by November. He said most employees will be hired from the surrounding area and those interested can fill out an application on the Costco website before coming in to interview at the membership sign-up office.

When asked how membership sign-ups have been coming along, LaCerva said that while the office has been busy, he expects sign-ups to pick up steam come October, when Costco starts sending out mail blasts to surrounding area residents.

Developers building the more than 158,000-square-foot store, as well as the 680-lot parking lot and 18-pump gas station, broke ground in March, and have moved quickly to clear 14.7 acres of land, install underground pump-station and holding tank equipment, and reconfigure roads throughout the Exit 74 interchange area to accommodate an expected higher amount of traffic once the store opens.

As construction has ramped up over the last couple of months in the Exit 74 area, and as roadwork faced delays in August, town officials, the project’s developers, town police and contractors worked together to help alleviate traffic issues in the area. On Tuesday, while speaking by phone, First Selectman Mark Nickerson said that “we may still struggle with a little more traffic than what we are used to” once the store opens but “we are ready for it.”

LaCerva said the DOT confirmed that road construction will be finished by opening day. 

“We are excited for opening day,” Nickerson said.

“It’s been nearly 20 years,” Nickerson said. “The Zoning Commission had this land zoned for a planned development, including retail and residential components, for over 20 years. So we are glad. There were many stops and starts for different projects trying to come in over that time. So the fact that the Costco building is up now and they are putting the finishing touches on it, is great.”

“It will be a new chapter,” he added.

The store is being built as part of a larger development plan known as Gateway Commons, which is being jointly developed by The Simon Konover Co. of West Hartford and KGI Properties of Providence, and which was approved by the town in 2015. The Costco store will close out the second phase of that plan. The developers also are moving forward with constructing 120 condo-style rentals over the next year to complete an existing 280-unit residential development at Exit 73 known as The Sound at Gateway Commons.

A possible commercial addition also was included in the Gateway Commons masterplan, but developers have not yet outlined what might be placed there and it may take them years to determine that as the Department of Transportation plans for bigger changes at the Exit 74 interchange, Newton C. Brainard, vice president of development and acquisition for The Simon Konover Co., said last week.

Nickerson said Monday that tax revenue generated from the Gateway Commons plan, once fully built, could amount to more than $2.5 million. The first phase of the Sound at Gateway Commons apartments generated more than $756,000 for the town in 2018, assessor Diane Vitagliano said Tuesday, and Costco is expected to generate about $400,000 in taxes.

Another $350,000 is expected to come from phase II of the Sound at Gateway Commons apartments, while another million may come from the additional commercial properties to be built in the last phase.

m.biekert@theday.com

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